Inside Insights: Aakansha Mudgal, Co-Facilitator

In conversation with H.E Sue Lines, Hon President, Australian Senate
In conversation with H.E Sue Lines, Hon President, Australian Senate

I, Aakansha Mudgal, am a Co-Facilitator at Milaan Foundation, living in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. I am 21 and pursuing the last semester of my graduation in Humanities from Chaudhary Charan Singh University.

Nothing brings me more pleasure than spending time in nature, reading books, and listening to music. Also being on the ground, connecting with and getting to know new people (especially women), learning about their perspectives, and hearing their stories is what I enjoy and appreciate the most. So in this blog, you’ll get to know a very inspiring & interesting part of my life i.e Milaan. 

I’ll begin with 2021, an extremely rough phase for me as an individual, a girl, and a student. I faced financial crisis that forced me to drop out of college, along with family issues and struggles both socially and emotionally. Then, suddenly one day, I saw a tiny publication about Milaan’s Girl Icon Program in the newspaper and decided to Google it. Initially doubtful, I applied for it anyway and, after a month or so, was selected following multiple rounds of interviews and screening.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to do. I had never heard of something like this before, and I had zero knowledge about the world of non-profits. Then I sought advice from a few people, all of whom discouraged me from pursuing social work. Despite being in a huge dilemma, I listened to my inner voice and decided to become a GI—the first one from Ghaziabad!

It was incredibly tough for me to build my peer group. Milaan had never had a Girl Icon from Ghaziabad before, so my community was unaware of the program and its benefits. When I went to mobilise my peer group, I was told that the program was a waste of time and that I should drop it too. Parents refused to send their girls. However, I did not give up – I ended up mobilising a peer group of willing girls that expanded beyond my community and held my peer meetings via Zoom. Thus began my journey as a GI in the 2021-22 cohort. I was only seventeen at the time.

As a Girl Icon, I made a peer group of 20 girls and conducted peer meetings with them every Sunday. This peer group was a team of enthusiasts. It was a safe space, learning with fun and a space filled with inspiration, resilience, and passion. I used to attend weekly life skills training and deliver it to my peer members with the help of our Girl Icon Program kit. Also, I did a Social Action Project (SAP) under Back to School where I gathered more than 100 people from my community to make them aware of girls’ education and its importance.

Becoming a GI and my entire GI journey made me confident, and bold, enhanced my skills, and honed a hidden talent within me.I realised that everything I needed was already within me, and the GIP significantly enhanced and polished my skills, particularly through training. I believe training is the backbone of the GIP. The greatest benefit was gaining knowledge that couldn’t be obtained elsewhere. We learned about taboo topics, including MHM, Early Childhood Pregnancy and Early Child Marriage, Reproductive and Sexual Health, which even our mothers or sisters couldn’t even talk about. Also, various other topics such as education, career, financial and digital literacy, rights including, gender-based violence, domestic violence, gender discrimination, and all the helpline numbers related to these social issues. It helped me become an aware, active, and responsible citizen.

Through all the hardships and challenges I was facing at that time, GIP became my biggest support. After becoming a GI, the Milaan team- their constant support, encouragement, and appreciation – became my ultimate source of inspiration and motivation.

Back in June 2022 as I graduated from GIP, I was immediately onboarded in Milaan’s alumni network with thousands of former Girl Icons, where I got ample amount of opportunities including scholarships, fellowships, internships, job opportunities, events, exposure to represent myself, informative sessions on various topics such as education, health, financial literacy, personality and career building, sports, women empowerment and so on. Milaan’s Alumni network is a hub of opportunities for us.

Parallel to this, I also got an exciting opportunity to continue as a Project Assistant. Having been in this role for almost 2 years, I provide mentorship and support to Girl Icons for the entire cohort (2022-23). These girls are my constant inspiration: they are no less than any miracle, full of life and determination to stand up for themselves and others at this young age.

One of my Girl Icons was featured by the Obama Foundation. Another who had never even set foot into a school was enrolled with our support. I am super proud and grateful to be on this journey with them. I did some field visits which shall forever remain with me. Those lifetime experiences, learning, affection, and exploring rural parts and people are something another level that actually made me realize that my heart belongs to the social sector.

As a project assistant I got a platform to demonstrate and add to my skills in communication, leadership, team spirit, presentation, community outreach, life skills and personality development, MS Office & Technology, and networking through.
regular capacity-building workshops and the constant support and encouragement of the team.

As I mentioned before, I have always been tremendously appreciative of the training provided to GIs. So I came across Milaan’s three-month-long facilitation course and fortunately got the chance to become a part of it. I will never forget those workshops, those conversations, and those learnings.

I got to know the art of facilitation, self-awareness, active listening, judgments, perspective, communication, exclusion & inclusion, and asking the right questions. I developed essential facilitation skills and learned how to create a more inclusive, safe, aware, and equitable platform. It also inspired me to be more mindful of my biases and judgments and to actively promote diversity and inclusivity.

Now this cohort onwards as a Co-facilitator I am applying the knowledge and insights gained from this course in facilitating training sessions on life skills, personality development, and capacity building to provide Girl Icons a safer, equal, and inclusive space to create a positive impact in their lives. I know that this is only the beginning for me, but I am so excited to see my future in this sector unfold!

Author: Aakansha Mudgal 
Milaan Foundation

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