Jaswant Never Dreamt of Success, She Worked For It.
Introduction: Jaswant is a company secretary by profession, writer by heart and a development sector professional by choice. Besides, she is a mother, wife and a daughter to her mother.
Childhood: As far as her childhood is concerned, Jaswant comes from a middle-class family. Her father, was a physically disabled person, and worked with the RBI as a clerk. Despite his physical limitations, he used to drive his own vehicle, which was specially designed to support him with two additional tyres. She was eldest with one brother and a sister. She used to cycle to the school with her siblings. At the age of 14, she lost her father, which changed the entire story of her life. She saw her mother, who was not even a matriculate, step out of her house, work as a class IV employee to ensure that her children are educated. That was the turning point of her life. She learnt how to take a stand for herself despite the humongous crisis one is faced with. This became the driving force for Jaswant during the rest of her life.
Journey Of Her Life: Her journey in the development sector has been transformative, not only for the people, whose lives my work has impacted, but also for herself. A meek submissive girl from a small town in Punjab (India), who grew up in a very conservative family, believing and reiterating the age-old practices and myths like girls are meant only for household chores and serving her husband and who would have dropped out of school but for the support she got from her school, Jaswant has evolved over the years into a leader, who can instill confidence amongst the marginalized communities from urban slums as well as rural regions. She has made her way the harder way by raising her voice within her own family before becoming the voice of others. In a country, where various factors like age, sex, caste, socio-economic status of people interplay and accentuate the deep-rooted complex social problems, she has worked harder to lift people from poverty and helped them in leading their lives with dignity. A company secretary by profession, her career in the development sector started with a Delhi-based organization, Deepalaya, where she worked for the rights and dignity of migrant workers, casual labourers, their children, especially girls and family members. The projects ranged from the education (early childhood, non-formal, remedial, formal, government-school interventions and higher education) to livelihood to skill development to women empowerment to healthcare and institutional care for children in need of care and protection.
The projects in the education sector catered to the needs of children from the most marginalized communities including school drop-outs and out of school children, especially girls. The programmes aimed at provision of early childhood care and education, non-formal and remedial education and mainstreaming such children into the formal education system with focus on their overall development. The programmes in women empowerment sector aimed at helping women in acquiring relevant skills, supporting them in establishing microenterprises for becoming economically and financially independent, making them aware of their rights and putting up a fight against social injustice.
Jaswant Kaur has also worked for mainstreaming the differently-abled children and adults, promoting inclusion and accessibility rights. In view of the fact that youth form a substantial part of Indian population yet most of them are unemployable, unaware and unskilled, she developed projects for making them employable, helped them in getting remunerative jobs in the industry. These programmes aimed at furthering the collaborative efforts with various partners, be it the government agencies, funding partners, non-profit organisations, social activists or the grassroot community leaders.
During the pandemic, Jaswant reinvented Deepalaya programmes to suit to the requirements of the beneficiaries and worked extensively for providing provisions and financial support for migrant workers, casual labourers, rural entrepreneurs etc., who lost their source of income. Not only this, she came forward with the idea of helping families in setting up small businesses, which were relevant at that time, like mask-making, grocery shops, etc. During the second wave of the pandemic, when many children lost their parents, she rose up to the changed scenario and developed a programme for their mental wellness, psycho-socio counseling and financial support for ensuring that these children are not forced into child labour.
After working for more than seven years with Deepalaya as their Executive Director, she moved on to BITSAA Alumni Trust, a small-town Non-profit organization based in Pilani (a small place in Jhunjhunu District of Rajasthan state in India) for promoting community development in an untouched territory. She has initiated two important projects – Project Prayogshala (a mobile van equipped with science models for promoting science education amongst children studying in government schools) and Youth employment programme (Skilling and helping rural youth in getting jobs in multinational companies like Tata Consultancy services, Wipro etc.
Her work in the new organization is much more challenging as not many corporates and funding agencies are interested in funding projects in a remote rural location like Pilani. Her aim is to promote sustainable development through implementing projects aimed at girl child education & leadership (in a place, where girls are married off at an early age), upgradation of rural Industrial training institutes, and implementing projects aimed at promoting maternal and reproductive health amongst women, neo-natal care of children, and addressing health concerns of the senior citizens. Beyond the organizations that Jaswant is associated with, she acts as a mentor for many young social-development leaders, youth and women. She is also on the board of a national-level platform of NGOs in India – VANI and has been instrumental in making the voice of civil society heard in a complex and restrictive environment. Her work has impacted the lives of more than 40000 families, around 50000 children, 2000 youth, 3000 girls and more than 10000 senior citizens. Her work has been recognized by many national-level organisations including the famous Times Network.
Achievements: Jaswant has been one of the finalists for Amazing Indian Awards 2022 in the Covid-19 heroes' category. It is a national-level recognition. Her work has been showcased on the national TV on various channels hosted by Times Network. Besides, she has received many other awards like Best Development sector professional 2022 by Crazy Tales, Global Youth Champion Award by Global Youth Peace Committee, Humanistic winner – WOW awards from women with wings, Orange Flower Award by Women's web for writing with social impact, Excellence Award issued by International Human Rights Organisation and many more. She was also a finalist in Martha Farrell Award 2020.
Professional Life: "Life has been an adventure for me. She had never imagined that She would ever come this far. She have been lucky enough to have got a lot of support from my colleagues and team members. This helped in overcoming the numerous challenges She faced. My husband and my mother have been a pillar of support and have stood by her through all thick and thin," says Jaswant. She feels grateful to all those who have played a role in her life, especially to those, who taught her lessons in the harder way.
Aims in her life: Jaswant relates to the larger cause of girl child and women and is a strong advocate of their rights. She wishes to work more rigorously for the cause going forward and support the most marginalized communities. She has plans to set up her own non-profit organization in the long run.
Quote: Jaswant Says Don't limit yourself with the thoughts that someone imposes on you. Take a stand, once you take it, don't look back, always challenge yourself, set new goals and grab all opportunities that come your way. This is what Jaswant believes in.