1200 South Indian Girls Have Broader Smiles Now. Here's How:

In India, the concept of ‘mental well-being’ is very misunderstood. People tend to link a negative outlook towards patients suffering from mental or psychological diseases. Many times, parents shy away from taking their children to psychologists only due to societal pressure. Such a tendency, coupled with the oppression that women and girls often face can create a disturbing atmosphere. A victim of sexual abuse needs mental support more than anything else to come back stronger, otherwise they will dwindle into the spiral of depression.

A Bengaluru and Hyderabad based NGO named Niriksha has understood this problem and has been working hard to give the proper counselling and psychological support to girls from a very young age. They have so far helped 1200 girls in 12 years of their existence.

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The story of Niriksha’s origin

Niriksha was found by Priscilla Balachander in 2006. She used to work in schools as a counsellor and she realised that a lot of girls faced mental issues. While the students in cities could afford counselling, those in the rural areas did not even understand the concept completely. So, she quit her job and decided to work for the poor. She used her counselling skills to help a group of girls who had been physically and mentally abused.

Priscilla used to work with individuals who were going through a phase of depression before Niriksha happened. Her work for the girls from poor backgrounds continued simultaneously and starting from her maid’s daughter, she also started taking care of the financial needs for their education.

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"I stepped provided the needed finance for my maid’s daughter Lakshmi’s education. The next day I found close to eighteen girls at my doorstep who were all Lakshmi's classmates. That was when it occurred to me that I needed to start my own institution in order to support these girls and they were they were the first batch at Niriksha," says Priscilla, in an interview with Edex.

Creating an impact in the lives of these girls 

Priscilla says that they believe in promoting self-worth and self-confidence in the girls. Niriksha has their own counsellors and also some guest counsellors. Their success can be noted by the fact that most of the girls who have been attended to at Niriksha and have completed their education, have gone on to work in good IT firms or banks. These girls who could not even come out of their own shell have now become financially independent.

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"The first star student at Niriksha was Anita. She is the daughter of a vegetable vendor who was asked to follow her mother's footsteps. Hardworking as she was, Anita was brought to the centre and was given ample education and went on to work with HSBC. With the money earned, she paid her way into Mysore University where she got a BCom degree. That was not the end, she continued to equip herself and now holds a good position with Kotak Mahindra bank,” says Priscilla.

It is a special feeling to literally transform the lives of students. Niriksha has been working hard to break stereotypes and we hope that they keep going stronger!

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