Garbhanga Handloom and Handicraft Center – A Humble Beginning…

To Fund or Not to Fund ? 

As a non-profit with limited resources ( be it money or people), you are all the time battling with the question on whether to invest or not to invest in a particular idea / project.

Yes, The need is real. Yes, The ‘Social Enterprise’ has the potential to change lives but are they equally motivated and committed. What if…. and there were no many such questions that we struggled with for more than 3 years before making the final decision…Yes, we will need to fund our first social enterprise project if we want to make a real change in their lives.

Driving Social Change is not easy and it is not about making one change!

It is a called a ‘Social Enterprise’ for a reason…

No, it is not a business with a fancy name. Social Enterprise is not a new concept, It has been around for thousand’s of years – The name might be new but the concept is not.

As we were going through the process of making a decision on how it could change the under-priviliged woman lives, the one ‘Social Enterprise’ that kept coming to mind was the ‘Success of the Lijjat Papad Initiative’  (read all about it here ). Interestingly, I grew up eating the ‘Papad’ ( Readers who do not know what is a Papad – read this ) but never really knew the story behind it until I was in late teens. Interestingly there were many such other ‘Social Enterprise’ successful initiatives all around the world and has changes the lives of millions of people all around the world.

Social Enterprise plays a key role in our movement to drive a Social Change!

 

Social Enterprise is Key to Social Change

It is easy to say that we will educate (academically) today’s generation. So, who will guarantee them a source of income. No, this is not my Question. It was a question, I was asked by a so-called uneducated and under-priviliged forest villager….

I was on my first visit to ‘Garbhanga Forest Village’ in Assam. A local boy who was accompanying me to the village, was told that I will ‘Convince’ the villagers on the importance of ‘academic’ education and why they should send their kids to school.

I was not aware of the fact that there was a villager gathering organized that night. Interesting it was a ‘Fireside Chat’ (no, not the fancy corporate lingo – but actual fireside chat since the village had no electricity). We did not even speak a common language – Not all in India speak Hindi. The local boy accompanying me was my ‘Translator’ but I did not need a translator for what was coming…

‘Academic Education is important but…

This was my first interaction with the local villagers. Yes, I have done many presentation in my professional life but what am I going to tell the local villagers…where do I start…what do I tell them….where is my powerpoint presentation with all those statistics….ROFL.

What happens when your ‘uneducated and under-priviliged audience’ tells you, We do not need you to convince on the need for ‘academic education’, We are convinced it is the right thing to do but…and here comes to bouncer…ROFL

“Can you guarantee us that after we invest our kids 14 years in school that they will have the means to earn their livelihood”.

Their argument was simple and based on facts that I could not dispute – Their argument…If we do not send the kids to school but instead if they learn farming and other skills that they possess (which have been passed down the generations), they have a much better chance of earning their livelihood and feed their loved ones.

Can sending them to school in a developing country like India which has Engineering and MBA graduates who do not have a job and do not know what to do with their education ? No, they did not slap me with this fact in my face but I knew the facts and I slapped myself.

I thought I was here to convince them on the importance of ‘Academic Education’ but they just thought me something that I will not forget all my life!

 

Live and Learn…

Needless to say…I was unable to sleep well that night and to-date, that conversation haunts me. Sneha Karma Foundation has its vision embedded in finding the answer to that question. 

It was never about academic education…Social Change cannot be driven by just ‘Academic Education’. It is a combination of multiple such changes…

When I look back, I think I have now been in school since that night of Dec 2012…trying to answer that question. 

Driving Social Change is probably one of the most difficult thing to do, not because people are reluctant to change but because the change you are asking them to make has to address the root-cause of their problems. They have to be convinced that it will solve for all their problems.

Driving a Social Change is not just about ‘Academic Education’ or ‘Skills Development’ or ‘Social Enterprise’ – It is all of these and many more to help solve the root problem.

Social Enterprise is one part of the solution to help drive a Social Change but probably one of the most important parts in the current socio-economic conditions of the under-priviliged.

 

Bridging the Gap….

Sneha Karma Foundation has been successfully running the ‘Support-A-Girl’ program for over 6 years now. First two girls who have been through the program will be graduating ( Bachelors in Arts) later this year. A proud moment for all of us who have been with them through their difficult journey but we will not rest until they are able to live their lives independently by pursuing the career of their choice.

But what about the girls who missed out on their education because there was no ‘Sneha Karma Foundation’ which came to their rescue when they were small. These girls are in the age group of 15 to 21 and they are already being married-off and having babies of their own. Yes, that is the reality on the ground.

What about the woman who did not only miss out on their education but are now facing abuse and domestic violence every day. They are the mercy of their husband who exploits their helplessness without mercy on a daily basis. The saddest part is that the girls in our ‘support-a-girl’ program are coming from those families.

Driving a Social Change is about solving the problems of atleast 3 generations to ensure that we can break this cycle

 

 

Where does our first Social Enterprise Initiative fit in ?

The 3 generations we need to solve for are ‘Past’, ‘Present’ and ‘Future’. 

In our own small and humble way, we think we are taking care of the ‘Future’ generation through our ‘Support-A-Girl’ program followed by ‘Skills Development’ program.

We need to solve for the ‘Present’ and the ‘Past’ Generation. These are under-priviliged girls in their late teens and woman who are under 50. There are a few of them who are willing to be part of the ‘Social Change’ that we are looking to drive. They are just looking for the opportunity.

Our first social enterprise initiative will be focused on providing this population set an opportunity to get trained and then be able to earn their own livelihood.

Big Changes start with small initiatives…

 

 

Garbhanga Handloom and Handicraft Center….A Humble beginning…

No, we are not looking to solve the poverty and inequality problem that exist around the world. 

Our humble effort is to change the lives of one-girl, one-woman at a time. We will consider ourselves successful if our efforts will lead to a social change in even one-girl, one-woman’s life.

Garbhanga Handloom and Handicraft center setup at Parijat Academy will initially provide skills development training to 25 girls and woman of Garbhanga Forest Village. As part of the training, they will learn entrepreneurial skills – our goal is to enable every woman to grow to the level where they can setup their own Social Enterprises. 

The Garbhanga Handloom and Handicraft center will initially produce handloom products for the local market in Assam / India. We are hoping that by 2020, they would be getting their products ready for sale all-around the world and we can put their products on sale on our Sneha Karma Collections e-commerce platform ( read more about our Social Enterprise E-commerce platform here)

Again, it is a humble beginning…we have a long and a tough journey ahead of us but we at Sneha Karma Foundation are committed and motivated enough to drive the Social Change! Come join us!