Shakti Empowerment Education Foundation


Providing free quality education and opportunity for socio-economically disadvantaged and at-risk children and women in West Bengal, India.

“Shakti” is the Sanskrit word for the feminine creative energy of life and love 

Shakti Empowerment Education Foundation for Children and Women (SEEschool) provides free quality female empowerment-focused education, literacy and vocational training for 300 socio-economically challenged women and children annually in Ranaghat, West Bengal, India. 

SEEschool works in collaboration with the community, parents, teachers and volunteers, focusing on innovative interventions to address gaps in the education system for students from the lowest income families. We also provide resources and education to protect them from the risks of early marriage, child labor and trafficking.

SEEschool’s mission is to teach the values of original thinking and problem solving outside the box, equality, collaboration, spirituality, sports, and respecting those of different genders, faiths and backgrounds.

SEEschool was co-founded by Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri and Ajay Pal-Chaudhuri in their home in Ranaghat, West Bengal. In the early 2000’s they had to go door-to door, to ask families to let at least one of their children gain an education instead of working in the fields and factories. These students soon provided the education for all their siblings. We began teaching mothers as well, and found they were able to dramatically improve the circumstances for their families upon receiving microfinancing. Now there's a long waiting list of women and children eager to learn. The current modernized additional school building was dedicated in 2002. High School Coaching classes are taught in the Pal-Chaudhuri Gupinath Mandir and gardens. Women's Education classes are held in the villages outside Kolkata.

 
 

Children's Education

We provide free quality education. As well as liberal arts, English, Bengali and Hindi, we teach self-discipline, appreciation for all religions and points of view, problem-solving skills, and taking responsibility for social advocacy, to create positive change in the world.

All of our students are from socio-economically disadvantaged families; many are refugees families who fled persecution across the border from Bangladesh, bringing little with them but hope. Yet these are some of the brightest, most generous children you will ever meet. Most of our students are the first in their families to become literate, many study hard so they can teach the rest of their families what they learn at school each day.

The majority of India's children are eligible for government schools, however the drop-out rate is huge: over 57% of girl children enrolled in government schools drop out.  Our school's drop-out rate is close to 0%. The reasons for this include: 

  • Children are often required to work to feed their families — SEEschool visits families to explain the long-term huge advantages of keeping their children in school, and suggest alternate sources of income such as women's vocational training for mothers that we provide at no costs.

  • Girls tend to be rushed into child marriage, which usually ends their education as they become primary caregivers to aged inlaws and babies of their own -- SEEschool teaches girls their rights and benefits of a full education, and support them in conversations with families.

  • Malnourishment impairs the ability of children to learn -- SEEschool provides breakfast to be sure they have at least one square meal per day

  • Books and school uniforms are required at most schools, which impoverished families cannot afford -- SEEschool provides books and uniforms for students to level the playing field.

  • Corruption causes many government school teachers to require private tutoring for students to pass their classes, which impoverished students cannot afford -- SEEschool provides tutoring and libraries free of charge through the high school years, to reintegrate students into the government system in time for college.

SEEschool provides personalized support and car so that those who need education the most are able to attend regardless of their family situation.

Average School Dropout Rates

2 Centers: 

Children's School at Ramakrishna Vedanta Vidyapith provides a well-rounded education,
including English language education, to children aged 3 to 9.
Secondary School at Gupinath House and Gardens provides free tuition for students aged 10 to 16 (Class 5 - Class 10). We also have games, singing and gardening classes on the premises.

We provide all books, materials and uniforms.
Lending library provides textbooks and other materials for 400+ student members, for school and college.

 

Empowering Women

Creating a cycle of positivity for women, their families and their communities.

Literacy and Vocational Training Programs

SEEschool provides literacy and vocational training programs to provide economic equality and protection for women.

Many are mothers of the children at the school, and many had to work as children themselves. These women show great courage, in spite of the most challenging conditions — they may live without plumbing and electricity, and lack food and security, yet they walk several miles each day to attend the school.

SEEschool provides microfinancing for 50-100 village women. Women qualify by taking 7 months of literacy classes and training, after which they can apply to become part of the finance groups.

After graduating from our programs, equipped with knowledge, confidence, and business skills, many of these extraordinary women are then able to build new lives for themselves and their families, and even to employ other women as their enterprises grow.

Women’s Exercise and Cultural Programs

SEEschool provides Women’s Exercise and Yoga, as well as regular cultural programs to help build community and networking opportunities for women who are often increasingly vulnerable due to their isolation in a culture that encourages women to stay home and avoid physical exertion.

The importance of empowering women according to UN India

(http://in.one.un.org/unibf/gender-equality/):

The Challenge
TheWomen in India represent 29 percent of India’s labour force, down from 35 percent in 2004. More than half of the work done by women in India is unpaid, and almost all of it is informal and unprotected. Women are not well represented in most sectors, including business leaders. Though they comprise almost 40 percent of agricultural labour, they control only 9 percent of land in India. Women are also shut out of the formal financial system. Nearly half of India’s women do not have a bank or savings accounts for their own use, and 60 percent of women have no valuable assets to their name. It is unsurprising then that at 17 percent, India has a lower share of women’s contribution to the GDP than the global average of 37 percent. In addition, women face great physical insecurity. The rate of crimes against women in India stands at 53.9 percent in India. In Delhi, the capital city, 92 percent of women reported having experienced sexual or physical violence in public spaces.

The Opportunity
The economic impact of achieving gender equality in India is estimated to be US$700 billion of added GDP by 2025. The IMF estimates that equal participation of women in the workforce will increase India’s GDP by 27 percent. More than half of India’s women don’t have cellphones, and 80 percent don’t use them to connect them to the internet. If as many women as men had phones, it could create US$17 billion in revenue for phone companies in the next 5 years. Globally, women make or influence 80 percent of buying decisions and control US$20 trillion in spending. There are also social benefits to empowering women. Women spend 90 percent of their income on their families, and economically empowered women boost demand, have healthier and better-educated children, and raise human development levels. One in three private sector leaders reported that profits increased as a result of efforts to empower women in emerging markets.

Women’s economic empowerment is central to realizing women’s rights and gender equality. Women’s economic empowerment includes women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets; their access to and control over productive resources, access to decent work, control over their own time, lives and bodies; and increased voice, agency and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions.

When more women work, economies grow. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes.[2] Conversely, it is estimated that gender gaps cost the economy some 15 percent of GDP.[4]

Women’s economic equality is good for business. Companies greatly benefit from increasing employment and leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organizational effectiveness and growth. It is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organizational performance.[7]

Community Outreach  

 

We provide for the community:

  • Safe, walled school grounds for use by students, Women’s Exercise and Yoga Club, a local sports club, the Veteran Club Volleyball Team, and the Women’s Karate and Men’s Karate clubs.

  • A free Homeopathic clinic and an MD doctor, who serves more than 70 people from the community each weekend.

  • A Free Library of English language books and textbooks.

  • Literacy and vocational training for women.

  • Microfinancing for women.Cultural Programs with music and meals to support community education initiatives.


 
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Our Team

 
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Executive Director

Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri is an award-winning director, photographer, and women’s empowerment advocate. Her work has won 27 awards, including the Tribeca Film Festival - Disruptor Award 2019, two Gold Lions at Cannes Festival of Creativity, Best Picture and Best Director at Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, and Best Film at the CNN Expose Awards 2018, and exhibited at The Lincoln Center, The National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian, The Brooklyn Museum, and Center Pompidou. She is Co-Host of The Global People’s Summit during the General Assembly at the United Nations 2018, sharing dialogue and information with 190 countries live; a Fellow and Speaker at Women’s Entrepreneurship Day at the UN 2018; and Host of New York Live Arts - AI Live Ideas 2019.

Born in Calcutta and raised volunteering with Mother Teresa and the Ramakrishna Mission, as an international teen model-actress on a solo journey across India, she recognized the massive need for women’s education, and co-founded SEEschool.org. Then studying anthropology at Princeton University, her work was discovered by David Bowie and Iman, who became mentors and commissioned her first album cover and major music video. Her collaborations include launching Beyonce’s solo debut, Dangerously in Love. She directed the UN's Nothing But Nets in Central African Republic; Pepsi’s Crescendo - Beats of the Beautiful Game alongside 9 directors including Spike Lee, for sports for girls in India; and directed Freida Pinto and Priyanka Chopra for Girl Rising India. She was the subject and co-executive producer of Double Exposure a docu-series on Bravo USA, featuring her work with Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and SEEschool. For more information please visit www.indrani.com

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Chairman 

Growing up in his family's historic home in Ranaghat, with a father who devoted his life to meditation, Ajay dreamed as a child of uplifting those in need whose suffering devastated him. Studying at Ramakrishna Ashram Vidyapith, he received his degree from Calcutta University, and became a Chartered Accountant in London, England. When he returned to Calcutta as the CFO of British Oxygen, he volunteered with Mother Theresa and with the Ramakrishna Mission. After working and retiring in Canada, he returned with his daughter to create with her a charitable school in their family home. Now in his 80’s he continues to actively manages SEEschool’s operations and quality control.

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Headmistress

Krishna Pal-Chaudhuri has dedicated her life to teaching the children of Ranaghat, West Bengal. From childhood, after her mother passed away, she took on the responsibility of raising all her younger siblings. She then became an educator focusing on humanities oriented education.

SEEschool has been fortunate to have her as its strong-minded, kind-hearted headmistress for over a decade. She runs SEEschool with firm positivity, ensuring that students receive a good balance of humanities, practical education, sports and music, and that the staff have the training and support they need to provide a holistic, loving atmosphere to empower their students.

 

Our beloved SEEschool Staff

  • 15 teachers

  • 5 teaching assistants

  • 3 administrators

  • 5 children’s helpers

  • 5 kitchen staff

  • 1 medical doctor at our Free Clinic

  • 1 information technology specialist

 

Some of Our Supporters

 
 
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Iman

"Not only does award winning photographer Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri create magnificent images… Indrani also grasps the meaning of giving-back!  Indrani and her father, Ajay Pal-Chaudhuri started S.E.E., a school in West Bengal, which provides free quality education and vocational training for women and children.... Indrani embodies talent and social conscience."

(Quote from Iman 2010)

 
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Deepak Chopra

The Chopra Foundation by Deepak Chopra has supported SEEschool by donating many books to our Library. The Chopra Foundation is dedicated to improving health and well-being, cultivating spiritual knowledge, expanding consciousness, and promoting world peace to all members of the human family - missions which we at SEEschool wholeheartedly share.

 

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