Devika Mittal, a corporate strategy manager at Microsoft who grew up in New Delhi and now lives in Washington, DC, knew that child trafficking and violence against women in rural areas in India was a growing human-rights crisis. But for a long time, the fate of at-risk Indian girls far away from her, while distressing, was something she felt helpless to change.
“You know that these problems exist, and you want to help,” she said. “But you also feel lost and like you can’t truly engage or help drive real impact when you’re living far away in DC.”
That all changed when Mittal flew to Microsoft’s Hyderabad office to meet Franz Gastler, the founder of Yuwa, a nonprofit soccer and school academy for girls in Jharkhand, India, whose students face the terrifying reality every day.
Gastler told Mittal the story of a student who had come to his soccer program every day for weeks. She appeared to be blossoming in the supportive environment that emphasized self-worth and self-determination. But then one day, she didn’t show up to the academy. She was gone the next day, and the next; she never came back. He had no idea what happened to her; it wasn’t until later that program leaders discovered that the girl had died, allegedly at the hands of an abusive family member.
Mittal was stunned. “Learning about this girl’s story in a real context motivated me to contribute whatever skills I could to help Yuwa’s mission. The work they’re doing is incredible, and I wanted to be a part of the tangible impact they’re making on young girls’ lives in India.”
She got that opportunity to make a difference when Yuwa partnered this year with Microsoft’s annual Hackathon, a three-day, global event for employees. Microsoft Hackathon teams have fun mad-sciencing new projects and ideas, using Microsoft technology to help solve some of the world’s greatest societal challenges.
To help nonprofit organizations such as Yuwa act on their own missions and find solutions, Microsoft invites them to hack alongside Microsoft employees. That’s how Mittal and 15 other employees from five countries came together to work with Gastler to build a tracking and predictive app that would help Gastler in his quest to keep girls progressing through Yuwa’s program and focused on their futures.
Read the full story written by Candace Whitney-Morris on the Microsoft Life blog.