A proud alumni of Deshpande Skilling recognised globally

Ashwini seen conversing with the elderly women of her locality and capturing the moments.

If one is determined to succeed and bring about a positive change in society, then even huge limitations like background, limited access to education and technology can be overcome. 

Find it hard to believe? You won’t, if you get to know the story of Ashwini Doddalingappanavar, alumni of our Deshpande Skilling Centre who, despite facing several challenges, grabbed every single opportunity that came her way to realise her dream. Today, Ashwini has gained global recognition through Lenovo’s New Realities, a dynamic art project celebrating women using smart technology to showcase and solve global social issues and empower empathy. 

In conversation with Punnyavathi Gouli S, Ashwini unfolds how she groomed herself within the available resources and the success mantra she adopted.  

New Realities featured immersive, first-person cinematic experiences that helped to give a voice to difference-making women in 10 markets around the world during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project took off as new research conducted by Lenovo revealed that technology had made people more empathetic towards different viewpoints in their communities.

The project took four months using 360-degree video storytelling of individual journeys of a courageous, diverse group of 10 young women using technology to achieve their dreams, such as supporting a social cause. The films help give each woman their own voice and shine a light on the role smart technology plays in furthering their missions. The films’ changemakers hail from India, Germany, Brazil, China, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. 

Ashwini setting the camera to capture the realities around her village

Ashwini D, a sober 24-year-old girl, who is part of this project from India was born and brought up in a small village of North-Karnataka called Kurugovinakoppa (Naragund taluk, Gadag district). She was raised in a joint family that comprised around 12 members. In families like that of Ashwini, elders start looking out for prospective alliances by the time their daughters turn 15 and education is considered a waste of investment. 

When Ashwini turned 15, the scenario was the same. But Ashwini decided to say no when her parents raised the topic of her marriage. She made it clear that she wanted to study further and be independent. Sharing her transformational journey with the Deshpande Foundation, she explains, “ With utmost reluctance and fear, I stopped discussions about my marriage. At the same age, many of my classmates were getting engaged and a few were ready for marriage as well as they had no other option, due to their family conditions. Also, the lack of education and awareness on the ill-effects of early marriage of girls made matters worse. 

“I come from an agricultural family and in a rural environment, many myths prevail and are taken seriously. Luckily, my elder brother Sunil supported me and helped me pursue my dream of continuing my education. That apart, the belief that my parents had in me let me take up admission in college. I graduated by taking up Arts as an option. However, I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to further upgrade my skill set. 

“When I checked with my peers on the way forward, Vidya, a friend, suggested that I enroll in the fellowship program offered by the Deshpande Skilling Center. Impressed by Vidya’s experience and exposure, I made up my mind to join the Deshpande Susandhi Fellowship Program in the year 2018.  But the challenge lay in convincing my parents to let me go to Hubball to pursue the course and arrange money for the expenses. 

“When Vidya connected me to the staff of Deshpande Skilling, I requested them to let me join the course along with a discount as I could hardly arrange Rs. 5000 then. They graciously agreed.  Thanks to all the trainers, I learned a lot as they handheld me through the learning process. For me, reaching Hubballi was like going abroad. The state-of-the-art infrastructure and the English-speaking environment initially overwhelmed me. It made me think whether I would be able to utilize these opportunities or pack up in a few days and return home,” says Ashwini. 

After surpassing many hurdles in reaching Hubballi, Ashwini took some days to adjust to the Skilling Centre environment and the pace of training. Sharing her joy, excitement and also fear regarding taking up a job, Ashwini says,” Getting family approval to enroll at DSF itself was a great achievement for me and after securing a job, I did not know how to react. That was because my place of work was at a different location and I was worried if my family would agree to it. So, to overcome this challenge, I requested Meghshala Trust officers to post me somewhere close to my native place initially so that my parents would also be convinced that I was somewhere near to them and this way, I could start my career. Thanks to the trust, they understood my plight and I was posted at Kundagol. I worked there for a year. Later, as months passed, I as well as my family gained confidence and trust. So, I decided to go to Bangalore for more exposure and also upgrade myself. Luckily, the  Meghshala team made this happen in 2019.” 

Let us see what her super supportive motivators say – 

Rajendra SM

Rajendra SM, Program Manager, DSF at the Centre says, “She was very attentive and had a fire in her belly to learn well and secure a job. She joined DSF a bit later.  We, the staff at the skilling center, told her to take up the next batch but she insisted on joining the ongoing batch and picked up soon. Considering her background and the efforts she had made to reach Hubballi, we gave her permission to join the ongoing batch. We were all impressed by her focussed, hardworking nature. All her efforts paid off rich dividends and helped her get a job in just two months at the center’s campus drive. Meghshala Trust selected her as an Implementation Associate and we are more than happy that we received great feedback on Ashwini’s performance at the workplace.”

Jyoti Thyagarajan

Jyoti Thyagarajan, Trustee, Meghshala shares – “There is something magical about Ashwini. Her soft nature, effort to make something big which reflects on the community in a positive way, whatever she does she does it from her heart and without any expectation. Ashwini’s observant and sensible qualities make all of us at the Meghshala Trust support and hang out with her.” Further praising Ashwini for her achievement, Jyothi Thyagarajan says, “Even I was surprised when I heard that Ashwini herself was shooting her film by using the latest 360-degree angle camera though she is not a technical person. I believe her real-life story of avoiding marriage at a tender age, a spirit to learn and break the ceiling in spite of coming from a small village in north-Karnataka impressed the juries.” “When Lenovo came to us for a couple of stories to refer to, we initially thought of a few teachers with whom we engage in fields. But later, we all decided to check within our staff and then two stories came up. One was that of Ashwini and the other was of Thejaswi. So thoughtful of Thejaswi that she told me that Ashwini was more deserving than her for this contest and she also helped Ashwini to draft her story and share it with Lenovo.  

“I thank the Deshpande Foundation for creating such a diamond. As she was trained well in her fellowship program, she has confidence. The confidence we saw in her made us select her during the hiring process for our trust. Now, we are proud to witness her achievement,” signs off Jyoti. 

Dr. Jaishree Deshpande

Dr. Jaishree Deshpande, Founder, Deshpande Foundation – “Ashwini Doddalingannavar is an impressive young lady.  Having grown in rural India, she has a deep understanding and compassion for the girls living in villages.  Having gained confidence, she has been helping the rural girls to acquire the skills needed to get meaningful jobs. I’m happy that she has become a role model for many young women and hope that she will continue to grow and inspire many girls to achieve their dreams.” 


Thanking all,  Ashwini says, “Thanks to Lenovo for creating this wonderful opportunity for all the young women out there, Meghshala and the entire team for pushing me and recommending my story, Deshpande Skilling Centre for giving the exposure and building the solid base to understand English, using computers in day-to-day affairs. That apart, thanks to them for enhancing my confidence levels and for making them believe in me. Also, thanks also go to my parents for having faith in me.”

Several media houses approached Ashiwini to showcase her achievements

“Now my responsibilities have increased. Like me, there are many girls in my village who need support to fly high and break the ceiling. I want to use this recognition received globally to support them and make their life better in whatever way possible from my end. And also girls should put in some effort and culturally be strong so that even parents can encourage and believe in their dreams. I am really satisfied with my current job whereby using technology we are helping teachers gain knowledge and teach students in a better and effective manner. Working for society is like improving our own family. Sometimes, I cannot believe that I was the only one from India to be chosen for the story and that I shot on my own, the entire film with online guidance from the filmmaker. These were additional reasons why I received so much applause from around the globe.” 

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