The Countess of Wessex headed to Mumbai for the next leg of her India tour on Wednesday, switching focus from preventing avoidable blindness in premature babies to meeting the youth leaders of India who are helping to change the world.
She kicked off day three of the tour at Sassoon Dock, which is one of the largest and oldest fishing ports in Mumbai. There she met with Ashok Rathod, co-founder of the OSCAR Foundation. The youth organisation works with many families from the fishing community of Mumbai to give them better opportunities, and Sophie met some of the local fishmongers as they walked around the dock.
The OSCAR Foundation uses sport, especially football, to give young people from poor communities the opportunity to become role models and make positive social change.
The Countess stopped by the OSCAR Foundation Computer Centre for a happy reunion – including plenty of hugs – with some girls she met last year at Windsor Castle. The group was in England for the OSCAR Kick Like a Girl UK Tour in October 2018, which enabled the girls to travel on a football and cultural experience.
Sophie’s trip to Mumbai also included hearing about two inspirational projects created by young people in Mumbai who are part of The Queen’s Young Leaders award programme.
Deane de Menezes’s project, Red is the New Green, is aimed at ending the social stigma and economic inequality surrounding menstruation. Sophie met with women and girls who have benefited from the project, which gives awareness-raising sessions, access to sanitary products, and eco-friendly disposal solutions.
According to GQ India, “The idea came to Deane when she started menstruating while she was in office and couldn’t find any pads whatsoever. She had to make do with a quick fix before she could run to her local chemist. ‘Every woman must’ve had this experience at least once, but it really made me think about girls who probably need pads but can’t afford it, or worse, don’t have access to it,’ she said.”
Red is the New Green has been rolled out to hospitals, colleges and self-help groups in 30 locations, and has reached more than 100,000 women and girls.
The second project Sophie learned about was the app CareMother India, co-founded by Young Leader Aditya Kulkarni. The app gives women who live in remote villages access to antenatal check-ups. CareMother gives healthcare workers kits that allow them to provide doorstep check-ups, so women do not have to travel hours away to a doctor’s office or hospital.
The stats surrounding pregnancy and childbirth-related death are sobering, and “around 800 women die every day of preventable causes related to pregnancy & childbirth,” according to the Royal Family. CareMother works to improve outcomes by enabling high-risk pregnancies to be identified and treated in situations where otherwise, they would go undetected.
The Countess met with some of the women who have been able to access care because of the app. To date, it has reached 30,000-plus mothers with more than 100,000 visits made.
An emotional portion of the day involved Sophie visiting a memorial at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The Countess of Wessex laid a wreath along with a note honouring the 31 victims who died at the hotel during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Her note, which was signed “Sophie,” read: “In sorrow & sympathy for the families who lost their loved ones.”
The Countess will end her India tour Friday in New Delhi.