An Interview with Nita Talwar, President of the Kiran Anjali Project

Introducing Nita Talwar, President of the Kiran Anjali Project, and recipient of the FAWCO Development Grant.

1) What is the mission of the Kiran Anjali Project?

The Kiran Anjali Project’s mission is to give guidance and financial support to institutions that provide education to disadvantaged children, especially girls, in India. We envision a bias-free world in which all children receive a high-quality education and job skills so they can be self-sufficient.

2) How will the FAWCO development grant assist you in achieving your mission?

The FAWCO development grant is very special to us, as it will allow us to develop a gender-equality curriculum for the youngest students who are served by our partner projects. Existing gender-equality curriculums start when children are much older and do not address the specific cultural issues and norms faced by the children living in the poorest communities of India.

3) What makes this mission so meaningful to you?

Having lived in India as an adult after growing up in the United States, the reality of seeing these young children on the streets rather than in school propelled me to do something about it. I am grateful to the Kiran Anjali Project for supporting well-run organizations that provide high-quality education and safe environments to the vulnerable children they serve.

4) What are the Kiran Anjali Project’s goals this year, and how will the FAWCO grant help you achieve these?

Due to the COVID outbreak and recent sectarian riots in India, we have had to shift our planned goals. At the moment, our goal is to keep the children safe, fed, and learning. The younger students are receiving homework packets and the older ones have started online learning. Smart phones have become very important for the older girls for both online learning and communication with teachers and classmates via WhatsApp groups. Understanding gender equality has become even more important, because the lockdown has seen an increase in domestic violence.

5) Why are your goals important?

The goals of the Kiran Anjali Project are important because education can lift children out of poverty and give young women self-determination and independence. 

6) What would happen if your organization was not able to accomplish its goals?

In normal times, not meeting our goals would deprive children of a quality education. This year, we must be nimble enough to assess the situation on the ground and act accordingly. We would like to see all the girls return to schools once they open and not lose them to early marriage or moving away from the school to remote villages.

7) What are some of your accomplishments? For example: How many individuals have you helped? In which communities? How have you helped them?

Since 2012, the Kiran Anjali Project has granted over $1.3 million to grassroots partners serving children, especially girls, from ages 3 to 18. We have funded high-quality education for over 1,400 destitute students from Bangalore, Hyderabad, and New Delhi. The projects we support include a pre-school and scholarship program in Bangalore, an after-school all-girls STEM lab in New Delhi, and a junior college program for destitute girls in Hyderabad.  Our newest partner project will help young women through junior college and university.

8) Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?

Vyshanavi is a young woman whose future looked bleak when her mother passed away nine years ago due to complications from anemia. Vyshnavi was 12 years old at the time and had already lost her father to AIDS a few years earlier. As an orphan from a poor family, she was at risk for trafficking or early marriage. Fortunately, her uncle took her in and allowed her to continue her education at a school for girls supported by the Kiran Anjali Project. At the school, she learned about her rights under the Indian constitution and insisted that she be allowed to continue her education after her Class 10 exams. We provided a scholarship for her to continue her education at junior college and she went on to complete her degree at university. She is now preparing for admission to an MBA program.

The Kiran Anjali Project provided a quality education which will be the backbone of my future success. The Kiran Anjali Project guided me as a teacher, advised me as a friend, and supported me as a family.” – Vyshnavi

Pooja was born to rag pickers who often forced her to beg at train stations from a young age. They would beat her if she didn’t bring home enough money. When she was only 8 years old, her parents abandoned her at a station. After surviving by her wits for many weeks, she was eventually brought to a home for neglected girls; this home receives educational grants from the Kiran Anjali Project. It took over a year for Pooja to settle into life at the home and at school. Eventually she began to feel at ease. She learned English through the intensive language summer program funded by the Kiran Anjali Project, and eventually she was able to transfer to an English-medium school with our support. Pooja is doing well academically and hopes to attend junior college when she finishes her Class 10 exams in a couple of years.

9) Are there volunteer opportunities other than financial contributions?

We are very open to hearing donors’ ideas for support. Because of the interests of donors, we now have a teen advisory council, we have created a story book, and we have conducted donor trips — all to increase awareness and raise funds.

10) What do you love about your job and the organization you serve?

The board is composed of an amazing group of women whom I feel fortunate to be working with. I love the entrepreneurial spirit, can-do attitude, flexible schedule, and the meaning and purpose behind the work we do. Our work makes a direct difference in children’s lives. We can see our impact.