Ruhi- A social initiative by Ashokans

Ruhi is a newly formed society on campus aimed at helping female staff members of Ashoka (didis) feel independent by teaching them English. Ruhi has had a great start after just a few weeks so we spoke to Ayushi Jain, one of the founders of Ruhi to understand how Ruhi was formed and what she hopes to achieve through her amazing initiative.

1.     Tell us about Ruhi.

Ruhi is a non-profit initiative. Our aim is to teach English to the female working staff members of our university. The members of our core team designed a syllabus with weekly deadlines using external online sources as well as feedback from existing social work societies on campus. We assign each volunteer to a didi and the pairs then work for a minimum of 1.5 hours a week to complete the portion assigned for that particular week. The purpose of our society is to engage the female staff in a recreational activity, that not only increases their interaction with the students, but opens up new opportunities for them.

A student at Ruhi

2.     What motivated you to form Ruhi?

My independent research in my senior year involved interacting with a lot of the female help staff members on campus. Through in-depth interviews, which aimed to assess the relationship between mental health and domestic abuse among these women, I learned that, not only was there a strong correlation between mental health and domestic abuse and a high prevalence of the two, but also that the women expressed a desire to have something more meaningful in their lives. I was teaching a help staff member on my floor, and she told me that the best part of her day was when she sat with her books and went over what I had taught her that day. That’s where the idea of creating a society, which would essentially be an extension of what I was doing at the time, came from. I proposed my idea to Neev briefly, and they responded promptly, but mentioned that the project may take some time to figure out. I could not wait so I instead went to the administration, sent forms out, and got started. It all happened very fast, and I was overwhelmed by the student body’s response to my initiative, with hundreds of students expressing an interest to teach the didis.

3.     Why is the society named Ruhi?

Ruhi translates to ‘free spirit’. We hope that the women feel more independent and mostly, just happier once they grasp the basics of language.

4.     What are your expectations from Ruhi?

My expectations vary according to the positions people hold in the society. I expect tutors to hold their teaching sessions regularly and adhere to the weekly 1.5 hour requirement. I also expect them to devise ways to keep the women motivated. At the same time, I expect the women (who are interested in learning) to take their sessions seriously, turn up for the sessions, and practice what they have learned independently.

5.      You said you interacted with a few didis last year. Do you see any change in them, after the implementation of Ruhi?

It’s hard to tell whether I see a change in them as the initiative is only 6 weeks old. But through candid conversations with them, I’ve picked up on their love for what they’re learning and enthusiasm to learn more.

Ayushi sharing a moment with students of Ruhi

6.     Do you want to expand Ruhi to include more women of Asawarpur?

That would be great! But it would certainly require a lot of planning. This is a new initiative and so we hope to widen its scope gradually.

7.      Why was the idea to start teaching staff members limited only to didis?

It’s mainly because my research sampling included only these women and so I had data only on their responses. When the men expressed an interest, we got in touch with a group of YIFs who were interested in our initiative. The YIFs then found volunteer tutors to teach the men. Ruhi is currently expanding to include the men who have expressed interest in learning. They will also work in a pair-based system.

8.     Do you have any plans to expand this for other subjects, such as basic Mathematics or writing in Hindi?

Not presently. We want the English program to run smoothly before including other subjects.

A learning session in progress

9.     Do you have any previous experience in social work?

Yes, I worked at the Agasthya Foundation where I taught English and Math to students between ages 9-15. I also conducted dancing and art classes at an orphanage called Reaching Hand. In my sophomore year, I was a member of the Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership as a part of which I received training in research and conducted interviews on the discrimination women in the corporate sector (eg. InfoEdge, Axis Bank etc.) face. In my +2, I did voluntary work at the Featherlite Pottery School where I gave underprivileged children time management tips and told them about different ways to improve academic performance. During this time, I also volunteered at NIMHANS and the Richmond Fellowship Society, and attended workshops which involved interacting with patients at institutes.

10.  How does it feel to know you are making an impact?

I feel good, and it’s been a great start, but there’s still scope for improvement in the society. I hope to have more events and programs that facilitate participation from the whole student body as well as the faculty members at Ashoka.

Edited by Gauri Jhangiani