Winners of Women’s Day 2014 Giveaway – Congrats Winners!!

Tablet Folder Winner of Women’s Day Giveaway 2014 – Abhilasha Meena

BE – computer science graduate from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, Delhi  and currently pursuing MBA from IIM Raipur. She is also a yummy mummy….

Managing the OPERATIONS of the house and keeping the tab on the inventory.  Taking care of the FINANCE and ACCOUNTS to the last penny. Keeping up with the relatives and managing the HR. Most importantly MARKETING the goodwill of the house.Time for FEMALE ENERGY to flow as ENTREPRENEURS.

iPhone Folder Winner of Women’s Day Giveaway 2014 – Swatee Singhal

Management student of Industrial Safety and Environment Management at NITIE – Mumbai! An Avid learner who believes in the theory of ‘The Secret’ shared by Rhonda Byrne.

Balance is nature’s law which can explain the need of more Women Entrepreneurs. Women possess a compassionate lens towards the society and thus can innovate, cooperate and communicate better to bring sustainable and equitable growth. This would eventually create an inspiration cycle for more women to be entrepreneurs.

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


Women’s Day 2014 Guest Blogger – Ms. Mandy Richards of Global Sisters, Sydney, Australia

Impressive women with so many passions but freedom and human rights of women are particularly strong for her and continuing to grow. Lady behind Global Sisters! You can read more about her –

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

Over to Ms. Richards………

I had to think about what inspires me to do the work I do, and to try to create real social change.

It varies somewhat in subject and place, but the ever-present theme is creating social change. For some reason I am one of these people who has a need to save the world or at least attempt to in order to make my life seem worthwhile. I am an animal lover, I love the great outdoors and I am particularly passionate about human rights & empowering vulnerable women.

Someone once asked me to fast forward to the day I am lying on my deathbed, and what was it I would want to see looking back on my life. For me it is simple; to love, be loved and to have made a difference. My friends and family are more important than anything else to me and a need to help those having a hard time in life is what makes me tick. Sometimes I fail miserably but these goals are always at the back of my mind, and every day I try to reach them.

I’m not sure what the catalyst was for this drive to make a difference in the world.  I suspect spending my primary school years living in Indonesia, while my father worked on a foreign aid project, may have planted a seed somewhere in my heart. I will never forget walking by myself as a 9 year old through flower markets and passing one person after another cruelly disfigured with Leprosy.

I’ve traveled a lot and generally in developing countries. I always marvel at the ingenuity and skill of so many people who have so little but can create something beautiful or clever out of virtually nothing. A few years ago I started wondering about helping to connect women artisans in developing countries with markets i.e. women in developed countries, who had the money to buy the goods. Around the same time I spent some time working in Botswana and with the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals in Ethiopia. My father made a comment just before I went to Botswana that stuck with me – he said he couldn’t understand why so many people go overseas to help others when there is so much need on our own doorstep. All of this and three years helping to set up a wide variety of social enterprises in Australia lead to ideas starting to fall into place in my head of how I could perhaps make a positive impact.

Global Sisters is my current project and designed to assist women who are economically disadvantaged to develop an online micro business. I like to work smart not long, so rather than reinventing the wheel my aim with is to fill in gaps and help to join the dots so that real change can be created a the grass roots. A one stop shop sales and marketing platform, Global Sisters will provide a space where women who want to provide support, and women in need of support can find each other in our online village. A business directory and e-marketplace will support women and social enterprises in Australia and overseas and our micro loans fund will be the first of its kind for women in Australia.

So now I reach the answer to my question of what inspires me….The women I am working with inspire me every day, whether I am reading a woman’s story, or experiencing it first hand. The strength and consistent desire to create a better future for her children against all adversity, and the passion, bravery and determination of those both supporting and being supported…this is what makes my fire burn.

– Mandy Richards

Women’s Day 2014 Guest Blogger – Ms. Fiona Wright of The Stitiching Project, Rajasthan, India

Based in rural Rajasthan, India! She and her husband share their farm house with a camel and assorted menagerie. Their day job is “The Stitching Project” dedicated to ethically creating textiles and women’s work locally. In their spare time they share their love for textiles through their small travel company Creative Arts Safaris.

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

Over to Ms. Wright…………….

A great honor being asked to be a quest blogger at Conserve India. Inspiring change is a topic to enjoy contemplating and then the reality hits …what do I say???
Inspiring Change is a vast picture in my mind…do I talk about India?
I was a yoyo visitor for many years and ever few months since when I arrived I saw so much had changed, somethings admittedly you would grumble about and yet even the slow wheels of Government here do so much more in the way of changing than I was witnessing in my home place of Australia. Now I have settled with my husband in rural Rajasthan and watch out the window the workings of village life.
Do I still think there is change ? Yes, perhaps, maybe but so slow.
The feeling – so much that needs to be done, who will do it, why not government, why not locals …why not me?
Being exposed to India I have come across so many inspiring stories- top of the list is Gandhi as a role model for modern India, what more do I really need to say than to quote him “BE the change you want to see in the world’
Modern day ventures like Barefoot College, Sadhna, Gramshree, Udayancare, Conserve India has an abundance of those who have been inspired to create change in their part of the big picture and worked diligently to bring it about.
how did any of these start? Someone was inspired to bring about a small change and they kept working and working at it.
Living in rural Rajasthan, finding myself and my husband embarking on a similar path…..don’t worry we are very small babies compared to the endeavors of these giants. I look and wonder on hard days how do they do it?
And need to remind myself of the saying [ cover your ears if your are vegetarian or think of a really big coconut??]
“How do you eat an elephant? One small bite at a time!! Dahdah”
All any of us can do is be inspired to change, start with ourselves, personally, what can we do better, more of, improve?
How can we spread that out a little further in our interactions with those around us, what choices can we make to ensure a positive impact on others. Think of how the food you eat is produced, the clothes you wear are produced, where do the by-products of these things go?
You don’t need to fix the world, just work on your small corner and let the effect ripple out from there.
Do what you do and enjoy, do it in a way that is fair and equitable to others, no need to pontificate over it simply let it happen and others will follow you example along.
Inspiring change is a small thing each of us can personally address in small ways in our daily life each and every day.
Get on with it and enjoy
-Fiona Wright

Women’s Day 2014 Guest Blogger – Ms. Marguerite-Marie Mitterlehner, Independent Consultant to Social Entrepreneurs, Europe

One of the successful alumni of HEC, CEMS & London School of Economics! She donned the consultant hat for 5 pivotal Social Enterprises in Africa & Asia and is now an International Advisor for Conserve India.. You can read more about her –

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

Over to Ms. Mitterlehner………………….

I recently read about Mrs. Damenech[1], who is a radiant example of how women motivate and participate in change. After 33 years in secretarial and administrative roles, Mrs. Damenech has opened her own business and is selling and delivering injera, a large pancake which is the base of almost every Ethiopian meal, in her neighborhood. A recently started UNDP training program collaborating with the Ethiopian government has provided her with entrepreneurial skills and will continue to provide advice when needed.

The reach of Mrs. Damenech’s venture is broader than just economical: she is an inspiring example. Not just in Ethiopia, but worldwide. In one of the poorest countries in the world[2] and herself being aged over 50, she has left a stable career to start a new business. Few women in developed countries achieve this. This strong, shining woman is grabbing opportunities, facing risks and challenging the status-quo in her neighborhood, and probably in her society.

Choosing Mrs. Damenech’s example to illustrate his article, and not one of her male colleagues, the journalist was aware it would be more striking. Why is that?

Because women are crucially inspiring!  The beauty in women has the power to inspire.

A teacher in a slum in Cambodia once explained to me why he insisted on having the school freshly painted, and a fountain and flowers in the courtyard: “Because these children need to be inspired, they need to know that life can be better”. Every experience of beauty speaks of the universal and opens a window of new possibilities. The beauty and the strength of a woman like Mrs. Damenech tell other men and women: we can make it, positive change is possible. On the contrary, when a woman is struggling or ill-treated, we instinctively know something is wrong. Beauty is powerful and inspiring, and because women are inherently beautiful, they are exceptional conveyors of inspiration.

The way women inspire change is also crucial because they do so in another way than men.

The Western corporate world is already aware of that[3]. Out of 9 leadership behaviors that positively affect a company, women tend to use 5 more frequently than men: “People development”, “Expectation and reward”, “Role model”, “Inspiration”, and “Participative decision making”. I believe this is applicable in other contexts and that more than men; women prize the opportunity to pour their energies into making a difference and working closely with others. Through their unique leadership style, or simply through their distinctive way of relating to others, women inspire change.

In their beauty and their way of relating to others, women are crucial to inspire change. But how can we fully benefit from women’ potential when almost two-thirds of the world’s 792 million illiterate adults are women[4]? Their potential can only be released when the society recognizes their inspiring power. The rest of the world, we, should create such favorable environments where women can become the agents of inspiring change they inherently are.

[1]Jeffrey, J. (2014, January 2). Ethiopia aims to create new generation of entrepreneurs. BBC News. Retrieved from

[2]Ethiopia ranks 173 on 187 countries. “The 2013 Human Development Report – “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World””. Human Development Report Office, United Nations Development Programme. pp. 144–147.

[3]Women matter 2: Female leadership, a competitive edge for the future, McKinsey & company, 2008.

[4]UNESCO. 2011a. p. 12

Women’s Day 2014 Guest Blogger – Ms. Amy Stretmater of Koru Street, Colorado, USA

An American, living in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she runs Koru Street, which was launched after coming across fashionable products made from recycled materials in India. A natural progression of a life and career focused on learning more about different countries and cultures! Prior to her trip, she worked in Chicago in advertising and Cologne, Germany in international relations. She holds a bachelor’s degree in German from Colorado College in the US and an MBA from University College Dublin, Ireland.

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

Over to Ms. Stretmater…………

What inspired me to change my life and start my business importing products from all kinds of recycled materials? It all stemmed from the decision to leave my job in pursuit of a four month trip through New Zealand, Australia and Asia (which eventually turned in to a six month excursion!) Near the end of my trip I reflected on what I had learned so far, as a 35 year old woman traveling on my own. Below is the blog post I wrote for my friends and family six years ago. Looking back now, I can see the seeds that would eventually blossom in to an entirely new career and way of life.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Surely there’s more to this trip than just “I did this and then this, oh and then this funny thing happened.” So here in a nutshell are some of my observations from my experience thus far:

  1. Sometimes I’m not as outgoing as I think I am. Many a time I’ve entered a packed common room in the hostel and taken the easy way out and just read a book or watched TV. Often it’s the overwhelming scariness of starting up a conversation with a random stranger but sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it to spend time getting to know someone when the next day they’ll be in a new city and you’ll likely never see them again. I would have guessed before leaving that I’d jump on any opportunity to chat with someone. Luckily, when I did reach out there have been exceptional outcomes, such as when I walked into the hostel in Dunedin, New Zealand at 5:30pm, was out with a group by 8pm and have remained in touch with one of the women ever since.
  2. A lot of casual friends is very different from just one good friend. There are times when I love having all these different, unusual people from all over the world around me. And there are times when I’d chuck them all in for one friend who actually knows me! But it can also be liberating to share your innermost feelings with someone who doesn’t know your history, who can listen intently without judging, who hasn’t heard the story a million times and isn’t going to be around to bring it up again. Not to mention the valuable insight from someone with a completely different background. During this trip I have had thousands of short conversations with different people which doesn’t nearly add up to the worth of one good friend. However, meeting these people, becoming their acquaintances and sometimes friends, having these conversations does change you in a way that’s hard to explain. I’ve learned so much about other ways to be happy and fulfilled.
  3. On that note, I feel like I’ve tried for a long time to be “normal” towards the goal of a good office job, settling down, getting married, having kids. (Going on this trip has certainly been in opposition to all that, however!) After meeting people with so many different ways of viewing and living life, I know that whether or not I do any or all of these things, I can still be “normal” and happy. It’s very liberating.
  4. I’m smarter than I thought, and not as smart. I’m braver and not nearly as brave as I believed. Your perceptions of yourself really change on this kind of trip. Sometimes I feel so incredibly smart (usually when surrounded by half-drunk 19 year olds) and sometimes I feel stupidly boring and uninteresting (usually in the same scenario). I know the decision to do this trip, especially on my own, is somewhat brave, but at the same time it’s nothing to the kinds of things the people around me are doing. There are 19 year old traveling throughout the world for a year or more, which I would never have had the guts to do. I went overseas at that age, but on a very planned, well-supported study abroad program in a country where I spoke the language. I’ve met entire families who have left jobs and homes to travel the world together. There are people who can talk to and befriend anyone. It’s all very humbling.
  5. In the same vein, there are so many fascinating people in this world. Which I already knew, but here it’s so in your face. Half the time it’s wonderful to be surrounded by this. The other half it’s tough because it makes you wonder, am I as fascinating to them as they are to me? You tend to do a lot of comparing to others and since you only know a small portion of them – usually just the really interesting part – it’s easy to find yourself lacking.
  6. One thing people tell you about this kind of trip is that you will realize people are the same at heart, once you strip away language, culture, age and experience. What they don’t tell you is that just as you start to see this (and I have on many occasions), something else happens to make you realize people are NOT all the same. There are some people who think and act so differently in this world. That’s perfectly fine and probably as it should be (and maybe completely obvious), but a revelation none the less.
  7. Material things have become much less important to me. I can’t think of any thing that I miss at home, besides the general notion of the comfiness and coziness of my condo. I don’t wish I had a particular shirt or skirt that I left behind (although I do often wish I had different clothes with me, just for variety’s sake). I don’t miss that poster I just had to have or the desk I agonized over selecting. This is something I’ve learned over and over, such as when I moved overseas with just a few suitcases, but this time it’s really powerful. I’m already looking forward to de-cluttering my life when I get home. What I do miss are dinners and games with my friends and family. It’s the experiences I treasure. Just like on this trip – I’ve bought a few souvenirs, but not many, as it’s the nights out, the skydiving, the scuba diving, the funny things that have happened that I’ll treasure. I just need to make sure I continue to remember that when I’m home.
  8. New has lost its fascination for me. This is probably the strangest one. Like anyone, I’ve loved buying a new CD, a new electronic gadget, new clothes. When I bought my condo, the vintage ones, albeit beautiful, held no interest for me. At some point halfway through Cambodia, while looking out at the ugly array of patched together electronics, houses and cars on the street I realized there it something to be said for not tossing something away just because it’s not the newest thing anymore. In India, I was told “anything can be fixed” and nothing gets thrown away. In the U.S. it was recommended I buy a new phone, even though only the volume button was not working as it would cost more to repair than replace. In Delhi, I had it repaired for a few dollars with everyone believing that was a perfectly normal thing to do. Yes, having a blue door on a red car may not look great, but it still runs great so why would anyone buy a new one? That would be a waste of money and resources. Certainly a different way of thinking. It’s along the same lines as the material things observation, but slightly different. Things no longer need to be useful AND beautiful for me. It’s ok if they’re just one or the other.

Wow, all this is a bit of a switch after my silly posts over the past few months. You do tend to get wrapped up in the “how to I get to that museum” and “how much money can I spend on dinner tonight” and don’t realize the things that are going on inside your own head. I do sometimes wonder how life will be at home. Will I just go back to my old life, with good memories? Will I radically change my life because of them? Or will I find a way to make small changes, incorporating what I’ve learned into what I had previously achieved? If so, what will that look like? I guess I’ll have to wait another month to find out…

Women’s Day 2014 Guest Blogger – Ms. Kerry Evans, Designer at SERRV, Wisconsin, USA

A multifaceted personality – self-taught weaver, textile artist, designer, teacher and author of 2 hand-woven clothing design books.  She has been involved with the product and economical development for the past 25 years and also a world traveler. She calls Madison, Wisconsin as her home.

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

Over to Ms. Evans…………

INSPIRING CHANGE through education and creativity can bring forth a world of empowerment and dignity in women to achieve social, economic and political opportunities.  I applaud all the incredible work being done by so many organizations and communities to bring these basic fundamental rights into the lives of women of all nationalities across the globe.

In thinking about what I would write today in honor of International Women’s Day,with the theme of INSPIRING CHANGE, made me reflect back on all the women I have met who have inspired change not only within their lives,  families and communities but within me as well.  So many of the women mentioned have been instrumental in the direction I have taken with my life and work.   Some names I no longer remember but their actions on a grass root level are still inspiring and unforgettable.   For many,change was essential in order to survive. 

In 1990, Berta, a young single mother and farm union organizer from southwest Colombia, was killed at her farm in front of her young son by a group of masked men.  She was trying to bring the farmers together so they had a voice during a very violent period in Colombia’s history.  Her death inspired the community to unite and fight for their rights.

During the same time, I met another young Colombian woman horrified by the amount of plastic waste in her community.  She organized collections of the waste and with the help of her family, started a recycled plastic tubing company which eventually sold tubing throughout the State of Cauca.  She was one of the first entrepreneurial  women I met who successfully turned waste into a business which employed many in her community and helped the environment in which they lived.

I was fortunate to have been introduced to Hmong women refugees who had recently arrived in US.  Along with the Milwaukee Area Technical School, an English as a Second Language Program and the Lutheran Church who sponsored them, I taught these women to weave and sell liturgical products through an organization called Multiweave.  Later, many of these women continued to work with me in another organization I co-founded called Silk For Life Project.  Silk for Life was a not for profit organization which offered silk production as an alternative to cocaine in southwest Colombia.   Silk for Life organized and supported women cooperatives by processing and spinning cocoons into hand-spun and reeled silk.    The silk was imported to the US and woven into products at the Silk for Life Workshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Working with the Hmong women was truly an inspiring experience.   Forced to leave their lives in Laos and journey on to the US with nothing but a few belongings told a story of incredible strength and courage going against so many odds and unknowns. 

Having lived in Guatemala for seven years, I experienced again the strength of the indigenous rural women who had suffered through a long civil war and lived through one of the worst genocide atrocities in the history of Guatemala.  I worked for an alternative trade catalog company called Pueblo to People.  Many women were widows who worked and supported one another by organizing into handicraft cooperatives.  One of the basket groups I respected the most lived far up in the mountains and walked nearly five hours one way to bring me their basket order.   The group leader could write and would present me a list of the women’s’ names.  At the top of the page were drawings of the different baskets they had made.  I would check the number of each style and pay the weaver in cash.  This was their system.  This was the only cash they had which was not in their pocket long.  It was always market day when we met and off they would go to make their purchases.  Every three or four weeks we met under the big tree at the foot of the mountain.

For the past thirteen years, I have worked for SERRV International, a Fair Trade handicraft catalog. The number of countries I now work in has expanded as have the artisan groups but the story of each women’s cooperative remains the same – strength and unity to help provide for better lives for their families and communities.  And through this unity comes dignity and empowerment.   More children are going to school, more clinics are being built and more international projects are involved in aiding communities and countries who are in dire need of help in many areas. 

A few years ago, I was working with the soapstone carvers near Kisii, Kenya.  One of the leaders of the group told me that women and their daughters had to walk daily three hours down the mountain to get water and another three hours to carry the water back up.  He said if there was a well in a central location the women would not have to carry water that far each day.   David said “Kerry, can you help us to get funding to build a well?”  A sum of $350 financed three wells,each dug literally by hand with a motor pumping  water into the containers of waiting women.  That very small donation of money changed the lives of so many women who, for hundreds of years walked down that mountain with their water containers.

My last story is about a group of Rwandan women.  Many were widows, returning back to their homeland after spending years living in the Congo as refugees following the Rwanda Genocide in which 500,000 to 1,000,000 people were killed in a 100 day period in 1994.  SERRV was introduced to this group of basket weavers through Engineers Without Borders and in 2007. I and another staff person visited the women of JyambereMutegarugori and began our partnership with them.  One of my most joyous memories is when I saw how the women had in four short years transformed themselves from very poor, shy basket weavers into radiant, powerful women who can now support their families, put their children through school, build new roofs on their houses and have cows in their fields. 

With INSPIRING CHANGE on a grass roots level, the only direction is upwards. 

– Kerry Evans