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Millennium Post

Women and the joy of giving right

Hosted by organisations at the forefront of what is being variously touted as ‘philanthropy with a difference,’ ‘strategic or targeted philanthropy’, among others. But that is not all. This is volunteering for change by those who have tasted the fruits of development – economic, sociopolitical, cultural – and are now ready to spread the seeds of change among those who still have miles to go before they can afford a healthy, if not wealthy , lifestyle at par with the ‘haves’ of society.

Anant Vikas and Womanity Foundation might have been conceived and formed in different countries (one in New Delhi and the other in Geneva), but behind both the fronts is a driving vision to ‘bridge the gap’ – between rich and poor, between girls and boys, between literate and illiterate, between urban and rural. Both are in the thick of engineering the change that we desperately want to have in our vast and unimaginably diverse country. Both have in mind the Millennium Development Goals laid down by the United Nations, particularly seeking to ‘end poverty’ and bring about wide-scale female literacy within 2015. Besides being active participants in the UN campaign for change, the organisations are equally embedded in both global and local realities, trying to usher in change both from top down and grounds up.

Anant Vikas, whose motto, appropriately enough, is ‘ignite, unite, change’, has been at the helm of planning community development through concerted efforts of civil society members and coordinated endeavours of all, including students, teachers, public intellectuals, NGO members and others from all sections of society. In cooperation with United Nations Volunteers, the nodal agency that contributes peace and development worldwide through ‘volunteerism’, Anant Vikas has already turned a hitherto poor village in the outskirts of the national capital into a sustainable success story. Gomla, the Haryana hamlet that has been in the news for its ‘model makeover’, is emblematic of how community participation, urban awareness and the will to make a difference can cook up a dramatic concoction of social change in the positive direction. Whether it’s cleanliness, adequate drainage system, claiming of jobs and availing government schemes such as MNREGA, Gomla stands today as a hugely different area than it was a couple of years back, before Anant Vikas teamed up with a group of students at Harvard University, who decided to turn the tables in this north Indian rural pocket.

With considerably bettered infrastructure, Gomla is now a ‘case study’ for many in the global academia who want to understand how fast-paced development can be achieved through community participation mixed with a bit of right planning from the reformers, educators, public servants and teacher-students. In fact, Gomla has transformed from a hub for the liquor mafia to a model village that is making strides in literacy, numeracy, skill training and learning such as basic computer handling, health and nutrition, sewerage and drainage, as well as coming out of old dogmatic ways of looking at women, who are tearing off the purdah and opting for more socially challenging public roles.  

Driving the wheels of Anant Vikas is Hritu Rana, founder trustee of the organisation, who, along with her team, has sketched up the four-pronged goals, including e-education, e-health, e-governance and e-commerce to spruce up languishing villages of India and turn them into success stories. Rana is the advocate of very simple life-style changes, with her emphasis on recycling and reusing the old goods, such as computers, television sets, bicycles, books and clothes and donate them strategically so as to markedly improve the lives of those living in abject penury. As Rana says, a bicycle for a village girl could mean continuing with her education at district school, several kilometres away from her home shack, whereas a bicycle collecting dust at an upper-middle class urban home is nothing but a junk item, discarded already for the ever new.

While Rana is chasing a number, that of the 6,38,588 villages in India, in her mission to reach each one of those and bring about change, Safeena Husain, founder of Educate Girls, which is funded partly by the Geneva-based Womanity Foundation, is looking to start a pilot programme to test the delivery of its unique services through an innovative idea – ‘payment by result’ initiative, wherein corporate social responsibility and actual on-the-ground work of community enhancement are brought together at a never before level. While Husain’s ‘Educate Girls’ takes up government schools, with an aim to cover almost 400 million girls at school, along with Womanity Foundation’s ‘Women Change Makers’ fellowship programme, it has also been working at devising a brilliant way of financing the schemes that are being planned, executed or implemented at various levels, that will look at only the outcome to decide whether or not to fund the programme, thus leaving enough room for flexibility and innovation for the organisations.

While some commentators are debating whether this ‘philanthrocapitalism’ will be setting the agenda for change in times to come, it is beyond doubt that women change makers are doing a helluva job to make the world a better place.
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