When we began the NDTV Coca-Cola Support My School campaign back in 2011, the real motivating factor was one very simple realization - a realization that a large number of girls in our country are actually dropping out of schools because of one single factor, something as basic as not having separate toilets for girls.
A closer look at the situation put forward an even more startling fact that a large number of girls were actually opting to go to school but were then dropping out because they didn't have a separate toilet. They would go home sometime in the middle of the morning and not return to school. This harsh truth seemed like a real shame and was a wake-up call to all of us, and this is how the idea of the 'Support My School' campaign was seeded.
There was a dire need to have proper and basic facilities in as many schools as possible.
As we went forward, more partners came on board, the mission took a leap and expanded further. From separate toilets for girls we also started to add basic infrastructure from libraries and playgrounds to clean drinking water. And as we worked towards the betterment of schools, the changes that we saw on-ground were inspiring. The right to education for all children was gradually turning in to a reality.
So far, the Support my School campaign has touched as many as 600 schools and has transformed the lives of 2 lakh children. And this is something that we will always be proud of. But now we are moving towards our next target and it's an ambitious one, a mission of trying to reach 1,000 schools and hopefully we'll be able to achieve it.
While, there is a lot of hard work and effort at the grass roots that has gone into this campaign, we should realise that any private campaign like this can only go so far. Eventually the government has to get involved.
One of the biggest achievements of the campaign has been to remind governments - both the Centre and the states - that issues like toilets for girls are of utter importance. And we are delighted to see not just state governments but also the centre taking this entire campaign forward.
We have seen Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk repeatedly both in India as well as in his speeches abroad about the need for separate toilets for girl children as one of the primary agenda items of the government. And once the government truly gets involved, we gain a lot of confidence and comfort that this is the sort of a problem that can be solved.
Our immediate target is 1,000 schools for this campaign and more awareness. And we extend an invitation to each individual to join in and try to make a change!
(Vikram Chandra is Group CEO & Executive Director, NDTV Group)