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Women’s Day 2015 Guest Blogger – Ms. Anita Ahuja, Creative Director, Conserve India & Conserve HRP India!!!!!!!!!!!

Women behind this empire Conserve India & Conserve HRP.  A Multifaceted personality – writer, artist, designer, Social Entrepreneur.  Most of all warm and loving person!!

Thank you Ms. Ahuja for brushing your strokes in this space.

Over to Ms. Ahuja……

The words, “make it happen” make me believe that it should be more of a mission and vision for everyone. Being a professional I have several problems. What makes me get out of bed each morning is the thought that I have to make it happen. While taking a morning walk, I make small signs on the pavement my immediate target goals and keep looking at the distant trees as my midterm goals. It includes both personal as well as professional goals. I put all my energy, physical, spiritual and mental strength behind the thought that I have to make it happen. My eyes are always looking for some interesting waste, either in the municipal stream or industrial. My mind keeps pondering about different ways to transform waste into something sell-able. There are times; I receive waste which is smelly, rather obnoxious. But I do not reject it. I let it absorb within me. My mind is ticking away, how I can recreate, re-purpose it ? When I am working with the rag pickers, I think how I get them out of this stinking poverty. After all, this is man-made poverty!! There must be a way out. And my mind says, make it happen.

Things do happen, and you need to believe in it!!!!

 

Women’s Day 2015 Guest Blogger – Ms. Sunita Bhasin of Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute, India!!!!!!!!!!!

Ms. Sunita Bhasin is a committed educationist, environmentalist and trainer with proven community organizing and management skills with cross functional expertise. Since 2003 she has lead SSMI family of 286 employees 90% of them are women. She has a deep understanding of community issues and a motivation to resolve them through trainings, counseling and livelihood. In these years she has turned promoted around 200 cluster women to earn with dignity. She is the Director of Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute, (SSMI)

Thank you Ms. Bhasin for honouring Conserve India & Conserve HRP with this gesture

Over to Ms. Bhasin……

The crayons in their hand, a paper in front of them and a million ideas in their minds… what should we draw, a smile lights up the young faces . The excitement, oh I have an idea is well expressed on their faces. The idea transforms on the paper!!

An artisan toils away at the fine embroidery humming softly her favorite folk song.

Women chatting & toiling at the big vessels cooking nutritious meals for children help fight mal- nutrition.

I remember in my Non-formal education class for adult literacy I handed each woman a pack of color pencils to draw whatever they wanted. One of women with tears in her eyes came and hugged me saying that she could not believe that this was for her. She told us all how she would feel guilty of using her kids’ colors and that she was very fond of painting. She created some amazing pictures for greeting cards.

I experience such moment’s every day. Little moments and little happenings light up my day.

Innumerable experiences working with women and children have enriched my life and made me realize that it is people like you and me who can make things happen – bring in joy, bring in change through small efforts though I know at that moment they seem difficult and humungous.

But how do you make it happen – identify the problem, find the right source, connect ideas, collect resources and bingo it happens.

Help educate the young and train women for livelihoods.

Women’s Day 2015 Guest Blogger – Ms. Lori Dando, USA!!!!!!!!!!!

Lori Peterson Dando is a career Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, now serving as Deputy Chief of Mission in Asmara, Eritrea.  In June 2013 she graduated from the Navy War College, earning a Master of National Defense and Strategic Studies.  From 2010-2012 she served as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy to the Federated States of Micronesia, where she coordinated FSM’s participation in the 2011 Pacific Partnership and encouraged FSM to pass an anti-trafficking law.  Previous assignments include serving as the Deputy Head of the Community Affairs Unit of the International Civilian Office (ICO), an international organization created to supervise the Government of Kosovo as it transitioned to an independent nation.  At the ICO, she headed the office responsible for Decentralization, the core structure for integrating the Serb minority into Kosovo structures.  Other prior foreign assignments include Copenhagen, Denmark; New Delhi, India; Durban, South Africa; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  Within the Foreign Service, Lori has specialized in economic and environmental issues, including a tour in Washington D.C. in the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES).

Prior to joining the Foreign Service Lori practiced law for more than a decade, primarily as an Assistant County Attorney in Minnesota, where she also taught and published articles and training materials on contact law, the law and policy of data collections, data privacy and information policy generally.  She served as Chair of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Geographic Information and also on the National Board of State Geographic Information Councils.

In addition to the Navy War College, she holds a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, and a Juris Doctorate, cum laude, and Bachelor of Arts, Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Minnesota.  She is married and has two sons, one an engineer in Duluth, Minnesota and one a Foreign Service Officer in the Department of State, serving his first assignment in Abu Dhabi.

Thank you Ms. Dando for honoring Conserve India & Conserve HRP with this gesture

Over to Ms. Dando……

I was deeply honored to be asked to blog on “Make it Happen” in celebration of International Women’s Day, but I don’t see myself as a Social Change-maker.  Most days I barely see myself as an adequate bureaucrat!  I seem to waffle between two worlds……

I seem to waffle between two worlds.  In one, I focus on the minute day to day tasks.  I write out my to-do list and find satisfaction in being able to cross things off.  Sometime I put things on the list that I have already done, just to be able to cross them off!  Then there is the other world.  The big one.  The one that is so large and so problematic and so full of selfishness and yes, sometimes evil, that I don’t know where to begin.  How can I stop the glaciers from melting?  What can I do to bring peace in the world?  Where would I even start to eradicate gun violence?

Take a breath.  What is it that I really want to “make happen?”  I’ve learned in life that people are motivated by different things.  Some seek glory and honor and recognition.  Others seek comfort, friendship and a feeling of belonging.  Others, like myself, are mostly task oriented.  We like to get things done.  The key to “make it happen” then, is understanding what the goal is, and, more importantly, how I can tie your motivation to my motivation, so that we can work together.  Maybe me recycling a bottle won’t change the world.  But, what if I make you feel good about recycling by calling out your efforts or by including you in the committee?  And what if you reach out and change someone else’s opinion?  I know it is a small thing, but big things are often made up of many small parts. 

What if someone had a great idea to help people and all they needed was a bit of encouragement to get over their hesitation?  I know a woman who wanted to help women entrapped in poverty.  She had a fantastically creative idea to create beautiful products made of the trash these women picked up every day.  I remember the day Anita sat in my living room and said she didn’t know how to build a business plan.  But she did!  All I did was listen, and the rest, as they say, is history.  I am so honored and humbled to think that I played even a minuscule part of “making Conserve happen” by just listening and giving encouragement.  Sometimes it might be that simple. Other times, some might be called to make a huge sacrifice.  I don’t have any advice to give because what works for me, might not make any sense to you.  I guess that’s the point.  We each have to find our own way to make it happen.  Find the thing that you can do at this moment that will make the biggest difference.   

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”  Arthur Ashe

 

 

Women’s Day 2015 Guest Blogger – Ms. Aparna Bhat of Ennovent, India!!!!!!!!!!!

Ms. Aparna Bhat learnt about the concept of Social Entrepreneurship during her Masters at IE University in Spain and has since been fascinated with the concept of ‘doing well by doing good’. She loves teaching and is passionate about the issue of the quality of education in India. She currently works at an innovation accelerator called Ennovent and hopes to use this experience to someday start an enterprise in the education space.

Thank you Ms. Bhat for honouring Conserve India & Conserve HRP with this gesture

Over to Ms. Bhat……

About 3 years ago, I started with some friends a skill development initiative called ‘Ansuya’ (learned women in Sanskrit) at a slum in Mumbai. The idea was to economically empower young women from low income backgrounds so that they may be able to take up certain skill based vocations, earn a living, and potentially escape the domestic violence that I know a lot of these women are victims of. We worked with these young women to enhance the skills that they already possess, helped them make products out of it, sold it for them and gave them the profit earned. This was a very rudimentary idea at that stage since I knew very little about setting up a social business, but broadly the mission was to help them become entrepreneurs. Thus, apart from teaching them vocational skills such as embroidery and fabric painting, we also taught basic spoken English, mathematics, basic costing, public speaking and other such supplementary skills. These classes allowed me to interact with these young women for long periods of time and understand deeply their lives, their thoughts, their observations and their opinions. Due to the faith they placed in me as a teacher, I was to some extent able to put them in a situation where they openly debate and question the context that they live in. While teaching them, I also started to question whether my short term goal of economically empowering them will lead to the ultimate goal of helping them question and potentially break out of the cage of patriarchy we all are bound by.

The situation of the woman who works at our house helped me realize that this ultimate goal will not be achieved through economic empowerment. Asha works as the help in a few houses and therefore has a much better and steadier income than her husband who is a contract based painter. She plans well, invests her money, and provides her children with a decent standard of living and education. She is economically empowered, just as I wanted my students from Ansuya to be. However, when her husband comes home drunk and beats her, she does not defend herself despite having the physical strength to do so. Not only does she meekly face the violence, she does not even question it. Asha, like the rest of our society, is bound by patriarchy. This has unfortunately become the way of life for all men and women in our society; it is the only way we know how to function and defines our roles and interpersonal interactions. It is therefore perpetrated by all of us from generation to generation as culture and tradition, along with the ideal of not questioning it. I realized from my experience at Ansuya that mere economic empowerment does not break these bounds, that a monumental eye opener is rather required. Just as Emma Watson highlighted in her speech at the UN, it is essential for both men and women to question and break this cage of patriarchy since men are also bound by the rules of our patriarchal society that requires them to be the provider, hide their emotions, take care of the family, face problems on their own to keep their wife happy, take up certain ‘manly’ professions, etc.

As I highlighted earlier, the cage of patriarchy limits us all, irrespective of the strata of society and the economic empowerment of women. As we are working on game changing ideas to deal with developmental issues, it is important that we work on better education and other such means to act as platforms for the necessary eye opener. On a personal front, I would like to go back to Ansuya, exactly identify how to discuss and bring out this issue so that we can collectively question and make it happen.

 

Women’s Day 2015 Guest Blogger – Ms. Kelly McJannett of Food Ladder, Australia!!!!!!!!!!!

Kelly McJannett, Director, Food Ladder, Australia is experienced in developing start up non-profit organizations and designing innovative and compelling communications and marketing strategies for same. Spanning the Indigenous Education and Employment sectors Kelly has held management roles and overseen important diversification, before pursuing her dream of addressing global food security challenges.

Kelly is passionate about creating sustainable solutions for pervasive social issues affecting communities across the globe. Kelly drives the international replication strategy for the business.

Thank you Ms. McJannett for honoring Conserve India & Conserve HRP with this gesture!

Over to Ms. McJannett……

We need to make it happen

Climate change is the greatest threat facing our world. Whether you are a sceptic or not it is impossible to ignore the‘side effects’ of climate change;record breaking rainfall and monsoons, retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, warming sea temperatures, and how such factors are today(right now!) impacting the livelihoods of the majority of people on our planet; the poor.

As climate change finds its feet and shows us the true strength of its character the most vulnerable people are losing their homes, being forced to relocate, inadvertently creating geopolitical tensions, and they finding they have even less to eat.

The good news is, as human beings we have an extraordinary track recordof pulling off the unimaginable.When it comes to safeguarding our world and the people in it; we no longer have a choice.

I would like to introduce Aniti. She is refugee of the Scheduled Tribes of India, people from Bengal, Bangladesh andAssam who have fled their home in a desperate search in a changing world. Aniti and her three small children now live among the waste, mud and faeces of the Bahadurgarh slum neighbouring west Delhi. Aniti is often raped when she tries to leave the slum to go to the bathroom at night. Her children, as young as 8,have fallen victim also. She is too fearful to go out in search of work and leave her children alone in the slum incase they may be kidnapped while she is gone. The majority of young girls and boys who make up the sex trafficking industry in India, and neighbouring countries, will recount a similar initiation. There is no protection for Aniti nor her children whatsoever. In the Bahadurgarh Slum, malnutrition is at 100%.

It’s people such as Aniti and the millions just like her, for whom we had to make Food Ladder happen.

I am Director and co-founder of Food Ladder and we create social enterprises that empower people like Aniti to grow their own food using cheap,simple, hydroponic systems. I like to think of Food Ladder as a holistically sustainable organisation; environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Food Ladder is a first. We do not hand out food, but empower the community to grow their own with a system that speaks to their needs and addresses their challenges. Placing responsibility on the community’s(largely female) leaders our social enterprise model hopes to improve nutrition, enables employment and provides a revenue stream ongoing, independent of our organisation.

Food Ladder systems require a relatively small space but can yield 5 times more produce per metre than traditional farming practice. A 60msq system, for example, can produce enough food to supplement the diets of 250 people.

Currently we are expanding our reach in the Bahadurgarh slum of west Delhi with a system adjoining the two room mud-brick school so Aniti and her fellow mothers can enjoy a much needed job and income stream, close to home, while their children are freelearn.

The system will grow high-nutrient food including spinach, tomatoes and bokchoy. Some of the food will be eaten by Anti and her children to address their malnutrition, the rest of it will be sold into the market to finance small salaries and cover the cost of purchasing seeds to replenish the system.

At Food Ladder we are gaining momentum to rollout our social enterprise solutions throughout India and then the world.

Providing appropriate opportunities for the poor is something that we must make happen. If not because it is simplythe right thing to do, then because it makes good economic and environmental sense!

Education and employment of impoverished women equates to smaller families (population control), higher earning potential (stronger economies), improved health (reduced malnutrition and spread of infectious disease) and cohesive communities (less migration). The list of supplementary outcomes is long.

While it would be nice to think that the powers of Government and big corporations might have the silver bullet solution to make these issues simply disappear, we can not wait idly be to see if it will happen. We must make it happen ourselves.

I believe we need to see these challenges as problems to be solved with innovation, intellect and collective action. Human progress.

We no longer have a choice.

Women’s Day 2014 Guest Blogger – Ms. Anita Ahuja, Creative Director of Conserve India & Conserve HRP, New Delhi, India

Women behind this empire Conserve India & Conserve HRP.  A Multifaceted personality – writer, artist, designer, Social Entrepreneur.  Most of all warm and loving person!!

Thank you Ms. Ahuja for brushing your strokes in this space.

Over to Ms. Ahuja…..

“Inspiring Change” – Well, where do I start? I see so many of them around me everyday.

Early 2007

Geeta – A Rag-picker

A Rape victim abandoned by her parents and lived on streets. She earned her bread and butter collecting trash from streets of Delhi. Her street living and her dependence on contractor made her vulnerable to all kinds of abuse.

Mid 2007

She started working as an employee of our company.  We trained her in quality control.

Personality – A calm and aloof person! Yes, you heard it right. It’s been many years, she has stopped speaking.

March 2014

Geeta – A Responsible Factory Worker, Happy Wife and Doting Mother

Today she is a responsible factory worker in our factory. She is married and very happy with her husband. Job and Kids are her another set of joy. And, her children go to school.

Personality – She speaks fluent Hindi and has cultivated a sense of humor.

Women are more challenged because of their circumstances – patriarchal society , male child syndrome , physical stamina, societal pressures etc. All this boils down to low opportunities and lower self esteem  

It’s time to get them out of the vicious cycle. Education, be it any kind – soft skills, technical skills and financial literacy can do wonders and create new age leaders, who are hard to defeat

Yes, every woman can become a leader and model for other women. Every Woman is an Inspiring Change for someone out there!

Happy Women’s Day

-Anita Ahuja