A strong woman who has been actively working hard and raising her voice against societal discrimination and violence against women and girls, Srishti Pragat is an inspiration for many. She is the founder of Sky Social that aims to give voice and confidence to underprivileged women and girls.

Q) You are a very active social worker. Was there any specific incident or experience that made you realize that our society needs this or this is your Ikaigi?

A) Being a girl myself, the kind of experiences that a girl has growing up in our Indian society, kind of stayed with me for the longest time. When I used to see a lot of discrimination happening with me in my own family. We are two sisters and we don’t have a brother. So, every time during pujas and Raksha Bandhan, we were made to feel that something is missing in our family. Not having a brother means, you do not have something that is a very important part of your life; which I never realized because, I was getting all that things from my sister, love, protection, care, everything. Women and girls in the family have to go through kind of violence, discrimination, stereotypes that have seen and heard around us. All of that made me feel that it is not something that I can let go of, and fortunately when I was pursuing my graduation that was the time I decided that if I can take up, something like this because my action can really have an impact and I can reach out to a lot of people, changing mindset around, gender equality, violence against women and girls. Why shouldn’t I use my voice? I graduated from Bhopal in economics and sociology honors and then I went to London for my master’s in development studies. I did my thesis on understanding the pattern of violence against women and girls in Madhya Pradesh and I realized that Delhi is, not just the rape capital of the country but Madhya Pradesh is also. A lot of cities rank high when it comes to different forms of violence against women and girls. That’s when I decided that this was something that I want to pursue further. Starting my organization was never a plan, I worked with a different organization in Delhi. I was also working with UN Women, and then suddenly, I could realize that this is not something I want to do because when you are working in an office setup, they tell you when you need to go in a community when you need to do a job, this is not how I felt I was creating an impact. It was then I decided that I can have that wider impact when I do something of my own. This will also give me the power to do things that I genuinely believe in and that’s when Sky social started in 2019.

Q) In India, there are still many taboos surrounding women. They have to struggle for equal rights. How do you think we can change that?

A) The first step is educating both women and men on our constitutional and legal rights. Even today, our school education system doesn’t talk about sex education, gender equality, and about a lot of important issues that are important for both boys and girls; which can help them achieve what they want in their life and to live a life with full potential. Educating people and awareness is the first step. That’s where school and parents can play an important role when children are growing up; the kind of environment they get in school, conversations they indulge in, things that they see around. The different type of things we tell boys and girls that needs to stop, discrimination needs to stop. This has to start early and I believe having a conversation, getting awareness is the first step, but the very important step is to take action. Taking action doesn’t mean we all have to go to fields and work for the communities. Whatever profession you are into, you can utilize it to spread and talk about these issues and bring change in your household, communities, and workplace. Those small acts can make a huge impact.

Q) Do you face any struggles from society or people who try to hinder your work?

A) There are many and due to pandemics, it has become more difficult for us to reach out to the community. A lot of times, people don’t understand that people working in NGOs are also human beings. We also need support whether it is financial, technical, or whatever kind of support an individual can provide to these NGOs. Other than that when we do these workshops and training sessions with women, the problem we feel is that these are the things they are going through for years, and I believe that one training session is not enough. There has to be a series of efforts and initiatives taken by both NGO and government levels so that sustainable things can come out and these conversations are taken up on regular basis. A lot of men are reluctant to send their wives to these saying workshops, saying, “Acha, ye to bigard rahi hai, ghar tordne ki baat seekh rahi hai” I believe knowing your right is not breaking homes, it’s telling them that they deserve a better life. They must voice what they feel and they can only do when they know what is right or wrong for them. I think support from individuals, people and government is very important for such initiatives and NGOs and also for the community to come together and take it very seriously.

Q) What is your vision that keeps you awake at night and makes you work every morning?

A) Empowering women so that they know what is right and wrong for them, and stand up not only for themselves but for women and girls around them. Young girls getting an education so that they can achieve whatever they want in their life. Society and societal pressure not limiting them to have their agencies or take decisions. Basically, building an environment that is free from discrimination and violence. All of us together can work for gender equality and ensure that both men and women can live the life they like, make informed choices, and participates in decisions that affect their lives. I want to make these young ambassadors who can become agents of change so that all of us can work together toward gender-equitable work. Today I feel young people have the power to do that, young people are doing it. I still feel there has to be a little more effort in terms of action been taken so that we can see changing mindsets across all social economic classes. Unless a little girl sitting in a village feels the impact that the kind of change I want to see and I alone can not do it alone. People like me come together to associate with us so together we can make a larger impact

Q) What is the one message you have for the youth?

A) One message that I want to give these young people is that they have the power to change the world for the better. You have the power and if not us who will do it then? We can’t expect older generations to change their mindsets. Its difficult to change mindset after a specific age. Young people today can question a lot of societal norms and stereotypes that kind of limit both women and men; so that all of us can live a free and safe life. Aadvocate for women’s rights and gender equality. Raise your voice, if you see something wrong happening around you, go and intervene. Try to help the person. That can only happen when young peopleare aware about their rights. Take action. Do something.