IDF India – not a single human being should be deprived of his/ her fundamental right of survival, participation, protection and development.

By Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Punit Asthana, the founder ofIDF, the Indian Dreams Foundation. Would like to thank Punit for the important information and photos.




How was the Indian Dreams Foundation founded?

IDF’s founder Punit Asthana was driven by the extraordinary dream that not a single human being should be deprived of his/ her fundamental right of survival, participation, protection and development. The loss of his father at the age of ten was a turning point for Punit. He set off on a journey to prove his strength of character and fortitude. He established an accomplished advertising agency of his own but realized that his life has another purpose.
Then, he determined to do something for the welfare of the disadvantage communities, especially for the children who are deprived with the basic necessities of life and living with dark and insecure future and decided to do some worthwhile for those people who were uneducated even unaware about their rights and facilities.
Initially, he started visiting some of the Agra (India)  based  urban Slums with some of his  likeminded friends and interacted with several slum dwellers and came to know about their basic problems i.e. improper water supply, sanitation issues, illiteracy, unhygienic conditions of health, poverty and most shocking was gender discrimination etc.  He was shocked to see the worst living conditions and education status of the children. Thousands of children were not admitted in the schools (out of school), most of them dropped with their studies due to worst economic condition of their family and they were wandering on the street and some of them become child labor.  Girls were the victims of malnutrition, gender inequality and early marriages.
So with such feedback from the ground, Punit has decided to  registered a not for profit organization called Indian Dreams Foundation (IDF) on 24thJanuary 2005 to fulfill his dream that not a single human being should be deprived of his/her fundamental right of education, survival, participation, protection and development.
What are the main sources of gender inequality in your targeted areas?
In our targeted areas, the gender inequalities are existed on the basis of female birth, girls’ education, health and right to take family decisions etc. The conservative attitude of the society towards their girls’ education, freedom and rights are the stumbling blocks for the development of the girls.
Although, girls spend less time in school than boys and few girls living in the poverty have a chance for an education at all and girls often are expected to carry out domestic duties such as caring of younger siblings, perform domestic chores etc. which undermine their opportunities for education and empowerment.     
Gender equality will be achieved only when women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all spheres of life, including economic participation and decision making, and when the different behaviors, aspirations and need of women and men are equally valued and favored.
What are the activities that you carry on in order to promote women’s rights and empowerment?
Indian Dreams Foundation believes that education is a key area of focus to minimize gender inequality. IDF promotes literacy and gender equality in education by Sponsoring girls’ education, health awareness workshops and skills trainings. IDF believes all girls deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential, and that investing in education now will pay dividends for generations to come. Organization shapes the values and opportunities of individual girls and also proven to help break the cycle of poverty within those girls’ families and communities.
Presently IDF is successfully running many campaigns that focus on to minimize gender inequality and promote women’s empowerment.
Below are the following campaigns/ activities:
1)                 Girls’ Education Sponsoring Campaign “HONHAR LADKI that impacts the girls from different backward areas and deprived communities. Giving girls equal access to school is also crucial to reach gender equality. 
The program impacts to improve the lives of adolescent girls by:-
·                    Access education and reducing school drop-out
·                    Delaying marriage and pregnancy
·                    Increasing the demand for and use of quality, rights-based, voluntary family planning
·                    Improving sexual and reproductive health knowledge and practices
·                    Enhancing girls’ autonomy, social networks, and participation
·                    Creating an enabling environment to uphold girls’ rights
The girls’ education program was started in 2011 and till today this program has benefited approx. 400 girls by sponsoring their education expenses and mainstreams them to the formal education.  
2)                Menstrual Health Awareness Campaign “SMILEY DAYS”that targets adolescent girls and women from rural and urban slums those don’t have sufficient knowledge about their physical changes, growth and healthy wellbeing.
The campaign helps girls and women in overcoming the social barriers associated with menstruation. By providing them with the right information, product and facilities, we will ensure an equal opportunity for girls across India whilst contributing to reach 4 key Global Sustainable Development Goal.
Our strategy is three fold: 1. Educating – develop workshops to educate girls (from 11 to 20) on biology and hygiene best practices, provide counseling sessions and distribute informative booklets 2. Providing – distribute sanitary products and build new toilet facilities for girls 3. Engaging – engage family members, schools and specialists to increase outreach.     
The Smiley Days Campaign has initiated in September 2016 and since then, approximately 1600 adolescent girls and their mothers are registered with this campaign.  
How do you promote children literacy?
Education plays a key role in the social and economic development of every country. Unfortunately, there are certain areas in India, rural Agra district for example, where female literacy rate is just 17.6%. Indian Dreams Foundation’s programs are built to help increase literacy rates in India, while ensuring that every child obtains a holistic education.
IDF has worked to identify reasons for low literacy rates in rural India, and has conceptualized programs to help overcome these obstacles by initiating development at the grassroots level.
We promote children’s literacy by adopting three key strategic approaches i.e. through non formal education, formal education and vocational/ life skills education.
1.    Non-formal educational “DREAMS LEARNING CENTER”,initiative started by IDF targeting those children who have dropped out of school or girls from minority communities.  Through the programme, IDF aim to build the children’s confidence, social skills and their academic ability so that they may ultimately enrol in formal education. The emphases is on making study easy, fun and interesting but at the same time the performance of each individual child is monitored using specialist tools developed by experienced educational professionals.
2.   SCHOOL REFORMS PROGRAM was started in 2008 with a vision to provide quality education in the children from rural and urban government schools by adopting these schools. We also aim to develop these government schools in Model School so that they are on par with the best run schools in the rural and urban areas in term of best infrastructure, academic performance and healthy environment. Under this program, we collaborate with government schools to reform and transform them from a dysfunctional system into temples of learning and motivations, creating an environment where dreams can be born. 
3.   Vocational/ life skills program
We believe that education is not just about the three Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) but much more than that – a strong value system, soft skills, professional ethics, and vocational training. 
Once a family decides to send their daughter to school, it is generally expected, and especially amongst under-privileged communities, that the education will make a difference to the employability of their child. 
So, IDF has started a vocational training program in 2010 to provide the skills based Vocational Training to youths and moreover adolescent girls and women in vocational skills.
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutes? If yes, how?
Yes, we cooperate with local authorities and institutes through our different programs.  We have partnership with district education department for enhancing quality of education and innovation among children with creative skills, we are also actively engaged with communities and district department for promoting WASH practices, Sanitation and health & hygiene of the adolescent girls .
At the international level, our organization has special consultative status with ECOSOC of United Nations, we are working on the lines of SD 2030 and trying to spread the objectives through our focused areas of work.