Sonali Khan is the managing director of Sesame Workshop India, whose most famous programme Galli Galli Sim Sim is watched by millions of children across the country. Here’s why she decided to quit a thriving journalism career to work in women and child development.
In 2018, Sonali Khan joined Sesame Workshop – India, which is part of the American non-profit Sesame Workshop, an organisation that has produced several educational children’s programmes. Its first and best-known programme was Sesame Street, which is better known in India as Galli Galli Sim Sim and is watched by more than 150 million children across the nation.
As managing director of the organisation, Sonali leads the Galli Galli Sim Sim project, which aims to combine the abilities of mass media with educational outreach. Under her guidance, Sesame develops and implements numerous initiatives and programmes to work with kids.
But even before her journey with Sesame Project, Sonali Khan already was a well-known human rights advocate. She was the director of knowledge creation and dissemination at Dasra, a philanthropic foundation where she worked for urban sanitation, adolescent girls’ rights, democracy and access to justice. Before Dasra, she was vice-president and later country director of Breakthrough India.
But before all this Sonali was a young television journalist in the 90s. But after the birth of her children, it began to be difficult to focus on her journalism career. This is when she came to know that an NGO CREA is looking for a communication person. She decided to give it a go and soon switched to Breakthrough India.
Here, she worked on issues like early marriages, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other issues under the umbrella of women’s rights. With Breakthrough, Sonali ran the international Bell Bajao! campaign against domestic violence, alongside What Kind Of Man Are You? to encourage men to wear condoms for HIV/AIDS prevention. She also spearheaded the organisation’s Mission Hazaar to stop gender-based sex selection.
After reaching millions through her campaigns Sonali moved to the organisation Dasra, which aimed to use philanthropy to bring systemic change, rather than lead localised projects. After a brief stint with Dasra, at the end of 2018, she moved on to Sesame Workshop – India.
Sesame Workshop’s programmes are in multiple languages including southern and eastern languages, as well as Kashmiri, and the organisation has also introduced programmes in Khasi and Garo. According to Sonali, these programs are filling the gaps in children’s life that parents and studies cannot fill.
For her work over two decades, Sonali has received the Nari Shakti Puraskar from the President of India, alongside the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship for her work in ending child marriage.
Credits: The Better India
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