In 1996, Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra Group began Project Nanhi Kali (which means ‘a little bud’) at the K.C. Mahindra Education Trust, with the objective of educating underprivileged girls in India. The project was incepted against the backdrop of spiralling population growth rate, low female literacy level and low female workforce participation. In addition, social issues such as child marriage and child labour were common place in many parts of India, especially rural areas.
Anand Mahindra felt that there was a strong correlation between the prevalent societal evils in India such as superstitions, dowry deaths, caste system, and the fact that girls were not educated. He believed that if girls were educated, they would contribute not only to the economic development of the country but also lay the foundation for a more just and equal society. This has been corroborated by the World Bank several times with their latest 2018 report, stating that limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to complete 12 years of education, cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings. Investment in girls’ education has a transformational impact on their earnings and standard of living. This, in turn, leads to lower fertility rates and child marriage as well as better health and nutrition for the entire family, thereby building social capital.
With the twin objective of positively impacting India’s development by educating girls and encouraging Indians to contribute to a worthy cause, Project Nanhi Kali was designed as a sponsorship program, wherein individuals and corporates could participate by sponsoring girls’ education for a minimum period of a year.
Over the years, Project Nanhi Kali has reached out to over 4,50,000 underprivileged girls across 14 states in India. From far-flung areas such as the hamlets of Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu to the rural outskirts of Banaras, from the tribal hills of Araku in Andhra Pradesh to the sub-plan tribal district of Udaipur, and from the crowded slums of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, to the more remote but cooler locations of Darjeeling, Project Nanhi Kali is ensuring that girls complete 10 years of formal schooling.