Arpita Barua of Jaipur city in the state of Rajasthan in India wants to be a wildlife photographer when she grows up. She has just written her class 12 board examination and is awaiting results. But, like the rest of the world, Arpita is affected by the pandemic and her future is uncertain. In these times, the Rajasthan Career Guidance Portal gives her hope.

Announced last year in Rajasthan by the state’s school education minister, the career guidance portal serves students from classes nine to 12. It provides information on career choices, nudging students toward vocational and professional courses, college admissions, scholarships, and entrance examinations. The portal was launched by the state government of Rajasthan and UNICEF and is supported by SAP as part of SAP-UNICEF-YuWaah!, a collaboration in India that works to empower teachers, strengthen secondary school students’ life skills, and provide career guidance tools.

Arpita’s school is one of the 150 government schools of Rajasthan where students have been introduced to a whole new world.

Story of Transformation

“Photography can be of different kinds,” Arpita explains. “One can take photos of objects, wildlife, and even of dishes one cooks and post them on Instagram. I use a phone to click photos of my friend – she strikes poses and I click!”

In school, Arpita had opted to use the career guidance portal. Her teacher explained to her the wealth of information that she can discover using this tool – colleges, courses, and multiple career streams. “Before this, I had no dreams as such. I had just thought of finishing a college education,” she remembers. Now, she has been able to identify colleges where she can train to be a photographer.

With help from her mother and her teacher, she managed to convince her father to allow her to follow her dream. More importantly, she found scholarships that can support her while in college. Armed thus, Arpita’s confidence increased and now she helps her other friends navigate the career guidance portal.

Steps Toward Positive Change

While Arpita has braved odds to pave the way toward her dreams, she has a friend who wants to be a fashion designer but must pursue civil service to appease her father. Her friend is not the only one. Many youth in India do not yet have exposure to the variety of career pathways, knowing only about stereotypical roles that are deemed to fit men or women. Girls especially think of becoming teachers or doctors or doing odd jobs. They grow up knowing few career options and their role models belong to those few professions. So they become what they see, thereby perpetuating this stereotypical cycle.

“Youth need to be informed of their options so that they can explore their talents. They need to go to school so that they can learn,” Arpita says. “Sometimes girls are married off young, even at 11 or 12 years of age. We need to change that so that girls and boys are considered equal. Teach girls so that they can choose their career paths.”

She talks of the helpful role teachers play in education. That is why SAP  is working to not only enable youth by supporting the United Nation’s Generation Unlimited but also to empower and train teachers and career coaches who can guide thousands, like Arpita, toward positive change.

The Rajasthan Career Guidance Portal does more than provide information to young people. It lets them dream and allows them to overcome gendered notions about professional choices. It opens a new world for girls, encouraging them to see, choose, and gauge possibilities for themselves. It raises hopes about what young girls and boys can achieve. Through this initiative, we imagine massive positive impact on lives of students across India in the coming years.