1 lakh VOICEs

100,000 dreams made into a reality, one voice at a time!
– Anusha Bharadwaj

It was 2014 and a Hyderabad winter morning, just cool enough to reach for my cup of filter coffee. I was looking at the white board which I had filled with numbers. After many consultations, I was working on the strategy for VOICE 4 Girls from 2015 till 2020. I had just joined VOICE as the Executive Director, the organization was little more than a start-up and the number of adolescent campers we had reached was around 4000. The white board had a break up of how in the next five years VOICE would reach 100,000 adolescent campers with effective programs that will enable them to equip themselves to become decision makers in their own lives as well as be Sakhi. From a one camp model, I had proposed a three camp model – Her VOICE Parichay, Her VOICE Disha and Sakhi Peer Leadership Camp. To expand the scope I had also mentioned that we will work with adolescent boys in a systematic manner. The numbers on the white board was a detailed break-up, camp-wise and year-wise, of how many adolescent campers we would reach. I was thrilled and excited to showcase it to the Board and the team. It was met with surprise, enthusiasm but a little bit of ‘how-are-we-going-to-do-this-craziness’.

In January 2020, a mere thousands short of 100,000 campers; the world shifted and changed. Exasperated and disappointed that we stalled so short of our target weighed heavy on all our minds but thoughts of how to move along, adapt and bounce back took priority. So we did that, adapted to online programming and reached out to literally tens of thousands of adolescents through online programming.
As I write this it is a hot Hyderabad summer day and I am reaching for my sip of cool coconut water. I get a call from Vanitha, Operations Director at VOICE and also my partner-in-crime, that there is good news. Given India is in the throes of a pandemic, any good news was welcome.

But those words, “Anusha we did it, we are at 1,00,833 campers”, was not what I was expecting. So six months behind schedule, the whiteboard came alive!

At this point, what washed over me more than joy was gratitude. For the many people who made this dream a reality. The team, with the constant churning of comings and goings; the partners, with their constant support and the gentle nudge to help us scale; and the camp counselors, with their incredible energy and passion. However, every girl and boy who has come to the camp is the wind behind our sails. Each of them is transforming their homes and communities to make it a more gender equal world. They were and still are the inspiration and motivation for us to continuously find ways to expand our scope and scale of work.
At this juncture, VOICE 4 Girls is poised for the next decade. We are all eager to come back to our white board (hopefully not a virtual one) to brainstorm, collate and move ahead to the next decade.
The thing on my mind, what is the beverage I want to choose to whiteboard the next decade? Cheers!

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