Last week we announced the seven finalists of this year’s Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award category. In the coming weeks, we will share inspiring stories of some of these outstanding women from India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. Today, meet Geeta Dharmarajan, Founder and President of Katha from India.
As a passionate writer and storyteller, educationist, reading advocate and community focused leader, Geeta Dharmarajan has combined these traits to create her not-for-profit organisation, Katha, which has been at the forefront of publishing and education in India for three decades. Through the years, Geeta has been bringing together India’s 2,000-year-old storytelling, theatre, dance and music traditions into her StoryPedagogy, a sustainable education model that spans the literacy to literature continuum, seeing translations as a non-divisive tool in nation building.
Family has been a big inspiration for Geeta. Her grandmother, an Indian social activist, and her father, a family doctor, highlighted the importance of empathy and equity, from an early age. Knowing that children living in poverty are not given the opportunity to learn, Geeta started the Katha Lab School in 1990, to give all children the opportunity to bring themselves out of poverty and live a better life. From mainstreaming quality into ageold government systems, to starting bold, innovative reading initiatives that impact thousands of schoolchildren, to cutting edge teacher training, Geeta is making a positive impact on poverty reduction through quality education.
Katha’s education model focuses on learning for meaning. Geeta is fostering in children a reader-leadership to create a kinder, more nurturing world. Katha’s children’s books open the world of Indian culture and diversity amongst people, helping to create a more open and inclusive society. From caring for the earth and nature, and gender issues, Katha’s focus is on equality for everyone.
As the world is rapidly digitising, technology has played an important role in Geeta’s plan to bring 300 million children in India to help bring equity in education. From this, the Katha digital lab – the organisation’s cell that creates ekits, apps, website service and online education resource – was born. Through the power of technology, DigitalKatha removes physical barriers, enabling children across the country to have access to books and learning. Enhancing the use of technology is also key to the organisation’s work with teachers and poor communities, facilitating the training of government school teachers as cloud specialists, enabling them to lead their own learning clusters of teachers.
The impact of Katha and Geeta’s constant ambition to educate children has had significant impact in India. Not only has she empowered children in government schools, in over 1000 poor communities training 350,000 women, but also 17,000 teachers in primary education. Her work has helped over 1.3 million children to date to become upwardly mobile, who otherwise would not have had access to an education. Katha books have reached 8 million children and continues to grow!
Geeta is one of seven finalists for this year’s Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award category. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 21 November in Melbourne.
Click here for more information on the Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award or to nominate brilliant business women for the 2018 Awards.