Fellow Q&A with Ayan Ray and Harshula Jhala, Co-Founders of Tavishi

We first met Ayan and Harshula at the 2020 WorldMUN Social Venture Challenge—one of our very first virtual competitions! Ayan and Harshula first pitched Tavishi to Resolution judges when it was just in the idea stage. A little over one year later, and Tavishi is now a registered nonprofit! Read on to learn more about Ayan, Harshula, and their mission to protect children from all forms of abuse in India. 

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Please introduce yourself.

Ayan: Hi! My name is Ayan Ray. I am 24 years old, and I recently graduated from NMIMS University, Mumbai with a dual degree in engineering and an MBA. Harshula and I were classmates! I live in Mumbai, and I’m absolutely in love with the city. 

I was born in Kolkata, and I had moved to Mumbai when I was in school. Mumbai, I believe has made me who I am today. I am an explorer at heart. I love traveling, exploring cuisines, and capturing moments through photography. It also brings me immense joy to talk to people about culture and history, especially about cities. 

I want to make an impact in the world with my work. 

Harshula: Hey! I am Harshula Jhala from India. I am 24 years old and currently work as a Product Associate at Vera Solutions – Data Solutions for Social Change. I am an Engineering + MBA graduate from NMIMS University, Mumbai. I have always been passionate about social work and have actively worked on various causes relating to the welfare of women and children since the age of 16

Harshula Jhala and Ayan Ray

What three adjectives would people use to describe you?

Ayan: Creative, Motivator, Adaptable

Harshula: Ambitious, Quirky and Kind 

What is your favorite book and why?

Ayan: My favorite book is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s an incredible book on the history of the human species. The observations, frameworks, and mental models made me look at various aspects of mankind differently. Recently, I read The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates, and it drives home the point of how marginalized communities can be empowered by uplifting women.

I consider myself to be a voracious reader. I make it a point to read about 20 books every year. I read books as paperbacks, on my Kindle, and on Audible. I particularly love books which give me a mental model to think about life in a different way.

Harshula: My current favorite book and one that I have recently finished reading is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It made me see life from a very different perspective. It also fueled my drive to work for children who have been victims of abuse. I hope that someday I am able to help the most vulnerable children — the ones stuck in wars and refugee camps

What is the issue your venture seeks to address? 

Currently, Tavishi aims to tackle the issue of child sexual abuse in India. In the future, we also want to tackle the broader issue of child abuse in India.

Have you been personally affected by this issue? If so, how? 

Harshula: Yes, I have faced sexual harassment growing up. Whether it’s being groped while using public transport or hearing vulgar comments about my body as a 13-year-old girl, I have been through some incidents that made me feel angry and unsafe. I always look back to them and wish that I could have stood up for myself.  I wish that the people around me knew better than to ignore these incidents and ask me to forget them. Thus, I wish to educate children and parents about the issue of child abuse. Although I pray that no child should ever face something like this, it is important for them to be prepared and confident if they ever find themselves in such a situation.

How is your venture addressing these challenges?

Tavishi aims to empower children, by spreading awareness about child sexual abuse, internet safety, and breaking gender-related norms in society. Tavishi is another name for Goddess Durga that symbolizes courage and strength. We are currently conducting awareness sessions in three areas –Child Sexual Abuse (For parents and children), Gender Sensitization and Internet Safety Awareness. We are going to start new sessions on Self Defense and Bullying as well. 

Tavishi hosting a self defense training for 20 children in Mumbai

What does your venture hope to achieve?

We understand that child sexual abuse is a topic that is not often talked about in India and many children are simply unaware of what it actually means. We want to empower them, by first making them understand topics like “consent”, “boundaries”, “safe and unsafe touch”. Then we want to make them realize that they have many resources and helplines available for any such issue. We want children to be confident enough to explain sexual abuse to anyone if they ever face such as issue in their life. Most importantly, we want them to have a conversation about this with their friends and family so that more children are empowered in the future.

What inspired you to start your venture?

Ayan: Living in India, I have always known about the issue of child abuse for a really long time, and I always wanted to do something about it. I remember having conversations about the topic with my friends in school and wondering why there is nothing in our curriculum that provides awareness. Being such an important issue in India, I always wanted someone in school to teach us more regarding how to protect ourselves and what should be done in case it happens to us or someone we know. Tavishi exists because of the wish I had during school to understand these concepts better.  

What has been one challenge you have overcome with your venture?

The lockdown was a major challenge for our venture. Our model was based on providing interactive and activity-based education but it was unsafe to conduct our sessions on-ground. However, our team of counselors and 21 volunteers worked extensively to modify the curriculum and make it more suitable for online delivery. Even though we could not conduct self-defense sessions, we managed to conduct online sessions for 35 people, where we even reached children from a remote village in Uttarakhand, India. 

What do you value most about the Resolution Fellowship?

The Resolution Fellowship is an incredible platform for us to have a global connection. I am so proud to be a part of the community. It personally makes me feel like I am contributing to a much larger cause than just my own venture.
We have received immense support from our Guides and Resolution staff at every step of the way. I know for sure, whatever I do in life, this Fellowship will take me a long way in my journey, both personally and professionally. 

How will the Fellowship help you achieve your goals?

The Fellowship provides us with a great network of experienced mentors and social entrepreneurs. Their insights help us navigate our way through challenges. It also helps us in solving our problems with a global outlook. It teaches us the ins and outs of managing a social venture. The seed funding was also very crucial to starting Tavishi! 

What do you love most about your home community?

Ayan: Everything in India is about diversity and culture. Staying in Mumbai has given me a privileged opportunity to experience the melting pot of the country. I’m really fascinated by how festivals, films, and music bring people to the country. There is an  innate pride in our own culture and that’s something I really find fascinating about India.

Harshula: India is very diverse and I am the by-product of a lot of various cultures. As a foodie, I love all the various flavors and spices that my home community has to offer, especially the street food in Mumbai! I  love the dance form of Gujarat (Garba)  and the stories of my warrior ancestors from Rajasthan. On a light note, I love Bollywood, the film industry in India, and can jam to the songs for hours. I truly believe that people in my city are helpful and resilient. We always look out for each other in times of need.

What role do young leaders play in the world today?

I think young leaders today have the skillset to tackle problems from a very different perspective. Young leaders think of challenges from a broader standpoint and are way more conscious about different things that are happening all around the world. 

Young leaders provide fresh insights and are extremely passionate about driving future growth and change in society. 

Why is it important for young people to focus on social impact?

Greta Thunberg is the perfect example that young people can cause a ripple effect and bring change for good. Her message resonated with millions from all across the globe. I believe that young people have unmatched energy and drive when they are passionate about a cause. Their intention to do good is pure, not to gain something out of it. 

Do you have any personal or professional goals for the end of the year?

Ayan: I focused on making the best of the opportunities that are available to me at the moment. I am really motivated to grow the team at Tavishi. I feel this year has been filled with experimentation and pivots, and I am driven to push my boundaries. 

It really makes me grateful to see the impact of my work and that keeps me going forward.

Harshula: The lockdown, especially working from home has been a challenge for me and my personal goal is to improve both my physical and mental health. I have the tendency to overwork and I am consciously making an effort to manage that. My fellow Co-Founder and best friend, Ayan, also advises me on digital wellbeing.

As for professional goals, I work as a Product Associate at Vera Solutions,  so I just want to learn more about Impact Measurement and Evaluation in the non-profit sector. I also wish to build on my Product Management skills. 

 

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