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Since childhood, where I live is not great. If anyone gets ill, they cannot afford medical fees. I want to become a doctor to people in my area and everyone who needs support.

When She Leads: Swati

By Kendra Nicolai, Program Officer & Sabah Siddiqui, Donor & Program Associate

September 28, 2020

This interview is part of our When She Leads: Back to School series. Learn more.

Swati is a rising 12th grade student who plans to pursue a Bachelor’s of Medicine to become a medical doctor. She is a program participant and a Grade 11-12 Shadhika Scholar with our partner site Vacha in Maharashtra. Swati was interviewed by Program Officer Kendra Nicolai and Donor & Program Associate Sabah Siddiqui.



Press play to hear Swati’s introduction.

Hi Swati! What inspired you to want to pursue a career as a Medical Doctor?

Since childhood, where I live in Dombivali, my area is not great. If anyone gets ill, they cannot afford medical fees, so I want to complete this degree to help in my area, and help everyone who needs support.  After the 12th standard exam, it will take five years to complete this degree. After 12th standard, I will take the admissions exams to get into medical college. The admission fees are very high so my parents do not want me to do this degree, but I’ve worked to convince them. Right now, we are facing a financial crisis and medical degrees are expensive. However, in our country many people can receive help from the government. If they are eligible, like I am, then there is an opportunity to go to a government college if I succeed in my final exams with high scores. This would help because the admission fees would be lower.

Are you attending online classes?

My online classes began in May, and I am attending classes online every day. I am facing a few issues including network issues. I am also facing mobile recharge expenses.  We don’t have money to recharge the mobile that I use for my online classes. Because of lockdown, there are financial issues. Everyone is home. No one is working. I attend all my online lectures at home. I have five family members, so it is difficult to attend classes. It is quite noisy for me; they are watching television loudly while I am trying to listen.  I always try to attend everything. Sometimes when it is very difficult, I’ll attend classes in my neighbor’s home. 

One time, my mobile was not working, so I asked help from my neighborhood friend. She allowed me to use her phone.  Now my family has purchased a second mobile for me to share with my brother and sister. We all have to use the same mobile.  

Swati (front, right in yellow) with her peers and fellow 11-12th grade Shadhika Scholars at Vacha.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Classes start from 9:30am- 12:30pm. Before 9:00am, I help my mother to complete her household chores. If I do not help my mom, maybe my mom will use this against me.  Around 12:30pm is when I eat lunch. After lunch, I study for a few hours. In the evening I help my mother with cooking and household chores.  After that I study at night for 1-2 hours.

Can you describe the difference between having classes in person to having classes online?

I am facing network issues at home and sometimes the teachers are not clear on the phone. There are some technical issues with this. I can’t always understand them. I feel in-person lectures are much better. 

Now in my online classes, we have 40-minute lectures where the teachers speak, but we are not allowed to ask any questions. If we have a question, we have to send texts and questions to the group chat online.  

In-person lectures are so much better. We can easily ask and easily understand, and can clarify our doubts in person. 

I feel good and bad at the same time. I feel bad because I cannot hang out with my friends in college but I feel good about being home every day and connecting with my parents and family members. Before that, I had college classes all day, so I was only home at night to interact with my family. Now I’m able to interact with my family more. 

Swati taking an online class at home.

Do you have any fears and doubts about this year? 

I do have fear related to my studies. As this situation is getting worse every day and at this time the vaccine is not made, I know I need to pass in this year. But I feel like maybe, just because of the situation, I will have a 1-year gap. What if my exams are postponed? Maybe the 2021 exam will be postponed. This is my fear. So then maybe I will need to find a job and wait for exams. Even if I pass my 12th standard exams, how will I get admission into college? I may just get a job after 12th standard to pay for college. 

How do your parents feel about you studying at home?

My parents are not happy with my decision because I took the science courses against their wishes. They are always trying to interrupt me and ask questions, taunting me about my studies during the day while I am home trying to learn. During lockdown, I am facing this more because I am attending online classes.  They don’t feel good so they wonder, “What she is doing on her mobile?”

Before this, I never really negotiated with my parents. Now I am always trying to negotiate with my parents. This much negotiation is a problem because I want to fulfil my dream, and my parents make this really hard. It is difficult to answer every time in class but I don’t care what my parents think because I am happy with what I have chosen. 

I told my parents, “If you do not allow me to study science, I will not study further. I will drop out.”  Only after I said this did my parents agree with me. My father was emotional at that time. They allowed me to study at that time. But then too, they still taunt me. When I face difficulties in my classes, they always taunt me saying, “You chose this.” This is difficult because I want to achieve my destiny.

Swati helping a family who is receiving rations through our partner site, Vacha.

How is the COVID-19 situation in your community?

After lockdown, everyone is at home. But recently since the lockdown ended, we all need to take special care of my father. My father is working again, so when he comes home, we sanitize him before he comes inside. We all try to be more careful.  In my community the positive cases are increasing. People are being careless. They don’t care and they try to roam without masks.  I negotiated with a few boys who were roaming around without masks. I even talked with Vacha about this too.  

Swati distributing rations with her Vacha peers.

What have you discovered about yourself in this lockdown?

I’ve had many learning experiences during the lockdown. I have attended many online sessions from Vacha, learning about COVID-19, and how I need to be careful. I was happy to attend that session. I also attended a 6-day workshop about gender and technology, where I did projects and submitted assignments about this theme. I really liked that workshop from Vacha.  We also celebrated International Youth Day in August and our own co-ed youth group, Ummeed, organized a Zoom meeting to play games and activities. The theme was based on human rights. 

I also participated in ration distribution through Vacha. We distributed food to 30 families who’ve migrated. I also attended a workshop about menstruation. Before this workshop I had some knowledge but, in this workshop, I learned some new things which I didn’t know before. 


Like Swati and many other high school seniors this fall, students in India are facing colossal challenges that sometimes feel out of their control. With the support of her Vacha community, Swati is learning to navigate a new environment and the confusion of the current circumstances. Your financial gift will give her the emotional lifeline she needs to stay motivated and focused on her educational goals.

You can make a difference by giving to our COVID fund right now, or in these other ways:

monthly donation of $50 gives one of our Shadhika Scholars the opportunity to buy a personal computer and access computer literacy to pursue online learning.

single donation of $150 allows one of our Scholars to have a more stable wireless connection for a year to access her teachers and stay in touch with her peers for academic support.

$1,500 scholarship pledge sends a young woman to college for a year, alleviating the economic hardship that may have befallen her family and could stunt her educational goals.

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