Bring social change

Debarati Palit Singh
Thursday, 10 August 2017

Vidya Balan talks about the latest initiative — Pathshala Funwala, which she is a part of, and how bringing about a social change is a joint effort by govt and individual

Vidya Balan is one of the few actors in Bollywood who has been supporting various social initiatives. From creating awareness about sanitation to working towards the empowerment of women, she has endorsed a number of initiatives. The actress is currently busy promoting Nihar Naturals Shanti Amla’s latest initiative — Pathshala Funwala, which she launched in Lucknow on August 9. While speaking to ST about this, the actress, who is also busying shooting for her next film titled Tumhari Sulu, says, “I am endorsing all these causes because I have certain leverages and I want to use my voice to make a difference.” 

She shares that she is happy that the initiative has reached a number of children. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

A fun way to connect 
Pathshala Funwala is an innovative mobile phone-based learning system. This enables English learning in younger children in an engaging and fun-filled manner on the phone through a toll free number.

Vidya says, “Nihar Naturals Shanti Amla has been taking up social initiatives in area of education for quite some time and I have been their brand ambassador for the last five and half years. They have launched various programmes and this is their latest one. The idea is to teach English in a way that kids will enjoy. All that kids have to do is give a missed call on the toll free number  8055667788 and they will receive a call back to take them through a module in a fun and musical manner. They can learn words or sentences on the call.”

She adds that once a child calls the number, their number will be automatically saved. “If the child again calls back on the number, we would automatically know if s/he is eligible for the next module,” she says. 

Vidya informs that in 2013, the group launched Mobile Pathshala.  Pathshala Funwala is a step forward in the same direction. 

English is important 
The actress stresses on the fact that it has become imperative to know English in today’s time. “The world is becoming a smaller place and English the most common language spoken across the world. You will always be in an advantage if you know the language. That’s the reason why we predominantly want to reach schools and rural areas so that the kids there too learn the language. In fact, we  have tied up with All India Radio, where the initiative will be aired a couple of times every week,” she says. 

Use my voice to bring in change 
The actress firmly believes that she should use her celebrity status to create awareness in society about various issues. “I think the very fact they have asked me to be the face of this initiative is because, as an actress, I have certain leverage. If as a celebrity, a large number of people listen to what I have to say and it makes a difference, then I should use my voice for causes I believe in. As an actor, it gives me an opportunity to make a difference,” says the National Award-winning actress. 

Vidya also believes that one has to be the change they want in the world. “We, ourselves have to bring in change and that’s what I am doing. I am endorsing the initiatives I believe in, like sanitation, education, health and dignity of women. I am happy with the kind of work that’s happening. It’s satisfying to see the kind of impact my presence can make and it makes me feel like I have done my bit,” says she. 

We need to create awareness 
Recently, there were news reports saying how a school teacher was compelled to teach his students in a bathroom because there was nothing like a school building in his area. What was even more surprising was that the local MLA wasn’t aware that there was a school under his constituency. Vidya calls the incident unfortunate and shocking but is happy that because of media, such issues are coming to light. “Now that it’s been brought to their notice, I hope efforts will be taken to give him some space to conduct classes. Awareness is the first step towards change. As a society, once we become aware about something, the next logical step is to take action. Having said that, it’s unfortunate when something like this happens. It makes me feel that there is so much we take for granted,” she says. 

Social change is a joint effort
The actress says that any kind of social change has to be a joint effort by individuals and the government. “We have to work hand-in- hand. We cannot do arm-chair activism or be critics and blame the government, corporates and everyone else because nothing is happening. You can’t sit and complain about poverty and illiteracy. We have to take equal responsibility towards change,” she says. 

She further adds that individuals can do their bit by sponsoring the education of their maid’s or driver’s children. 

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