NGO leaders often face extraordinary challenges – both at the organisational level and on the personal front too. This has special significance for women NGO leaders. Participation of women in the NGO environment, has gave them an opportunity to foray into social and political spheres which were not easily granted by the for-profit and public sectors. Many NGOs that work to alleviate poverty among women also focuses on advocating the women’s
rights, which have gone a long way to usher in important changes in the lives of women. NGO leaders often face extraordinary challenges – both at the organisational level and on the personal front too. This has special significance for women NGO leaders. Participation of women in the NGO environment, has gave them an opportunity to foray into social and political spheres which were not easily granted by the for-profit and public sectors. Many NGOs that work to alleviate poverty among women also focuses on advocating the women’s rights, which have gone a long way to usher in important changes in the lives of women.
Here, we see NGOs mobilizing optimum resources and plans and implementing projects that impact women empowerment. It’s social entrepreneurship for a cause, and all about promoting positivity. What exactly makes them tick? What inspires women to walk this untrodden path? What drives them?
Read on about some 10 women who have created history by taking up a cause and going all the way – to achieve success!
1. Zubaida Bai, Founder and Chief Executive of Ayzh (pronounced as eyes)
Inspired from her own personal experience, Zubedda Bhai started this organization, after she delivered her first baby. She was so ill that doctor had proclaimed that she may not be able to conceive again, but she did it. That made her determined to bring sustainable clean birth solutions for women around the world. According to surveys every year, there is a very large rate of mortality among mothers due to unhygienic birth conditions. In the course of working in this field, she found out that there is a desire of rural women to use low-cost, quality health products. She recognised the need for hospitals, small clinics functioning in rural India. Ayzh the organisation has given birth to a product called JANMA, which is a clean birth kit which contains simple tools recommended by WHO and costs just Rs 100. Using this kit, prevents infection at the time of birth reducing the rate of deaths among mothers and infants. The organisation has sold more than 32000 kits and more than 64,000 mothers and their babies have access to this kit worldwide.
2. Nita Dalal Mukesh Ambani (Chairperson and Founder of Reliance Foundation)
Nita Ambani is leaving a mark in the philanthropic activities done in the country today. Married to the famous industrialist and chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, she is the Chairperson and Founder of Reliance Foundation and also the Non-executive Director of Reliance Industries. She is using her family fortune and influence in various social activities, which include her work in philanthropy, education and promotion of arts. She leads the CSR team of Reliance Industries called Reliance Foundation. The foundation mainly work in the areas like Transformation of Rural India, Health, Education, Sports for Development, Disaster Response, Arts, Culture and Heritage and Urban Renewal.
She was honoured by Forbes as the most influential women business leaders in Asia and by India Today as among the fifty high and mighty Indians for her contributions in the above sectors.
3. Jasmeen Patheja (Initiator of Blank Noise)
Aiming to tackle eve teasing in India, Jasmmen Patheja started Blank Noise in 2003. Being an art student, she was highly influenced by feminist art practices, feminist activism and always used to be driven by the huge contribution an artist has in social transformation. She also believes art can heal and also can create.
With this strong belief of hers, she was motivated to craft this project called Blank Noise. It started out as a student project at Srishti School of Art Design and Technology in Bangalore and now it has spread its wings all over India. There are volunteers taking up activities on behalf of the project, Blank Noise. These volunteers hold street plays, campaigns, collective marches etc. These volunteers are a voice to women experiencing sexual harassment on streets. The project is in active in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Calcutta, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Lucknow.
4. Neha Juneja (co-founder of Greenway Grameen Infra’s Smart Stove)
She started her journey in the year 2011-12 along with Ankit Mathur, her partner in foundation of the organisation Greenway Grammen Infra’s Smart Stove. Many questioned their efforts of selling stoves because people are quite happy and comfortable using mud chulhas. They have set up a factory in Vadodara, Gujarat which is the biggest stove manufacturer of the country. Within six months of the smart stove launch, 5000 units were selling per month and she sees success today with over three lakhs unit already sold in the country. She leads a 130 employee team and the Greenway Grameen is headquartered in Mumbai. She has successfully entered the international market covering the countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Mexico. The smart cook stove was created after extensive research and surveys she and her partner did while travelling in various rural parts of the country. After the creation of the product it was tested in five states by local women who gave their feedbacks. These feedbacks were brought into consideration before officially launching the Greenway Smart Stove.
5. Harmeet Neetu Sidhu (founder of Revival Style)
Using fashion to bring social change – was her basic idea. While in college she had many interests like social entrepreneurship, marketing, sociology, economic development and fashion. She mixed up style with social impact and in the year 2011 she along with her friend Allison Taylor launched Revival Style in New York City. Then after two years of spreading her ideas in New York she moved to Gujarat in 2013 and worked with the artisans and various communities working with the handicraft and textile industry of Gujarat. After this she came up with the new collections for Revival Style exclusively styled in India. Her Revival Style aims at making beautiful outfits for women to look good and feel good and, at the same time it also enables the customers to contribute towards the well-being and development of artisans and their families. This enabling is also done by the employment opportunities provided by Shop Revival Style.
6. Gauri Singh (Founder of The Maid’s Company)
She is a social entrepreneur who aims at renewal of urban poor population by creating employment opportunities for them. She has got tremendous expertise in working with the grassroots population and policies given for them, in the field of microfinance, urban livelihoods and housing and infrastructure. She is presently the president and founder of Urban Mahila & Majdoor Alliance (UMA) and The Maid’s Company (TMC). She has a Masters degree in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and political Science and a Bachelor degree in Architecture from Sushant School of Art and architecture, Delhi. The Maid’s Company works in the area of domestic help and their aim is to revolutionize this sector by improving the service provided by them and also by protecting the rights enjoyed by every domestic help.
7. Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad
It’s a very well known, old all-women co-operative, which manufactures fast-moving consumer goods. The co-operative started with the main objective of empowerment of women. It started in the year 1959 and still going strong providing employment opportunities to women. It was started by seven Gujarati women who were based in Mumbai. These women used to stay in Lohana Niwas in Girgaum. Their main aim was sustainable livelihood. The names of these seven women are Jaswantiben Jamnadas Popat, Parvatiben Ramdas Thodani, Ujamben Narandas Kundalia, Banuben.N.Tanna, Laguben Amritlar Gokani, Jayaben V. Vithalani and the other lady’s name is not known. Today Lijjat is popularly categorised under cottage industries and it has got an annual turnover of Rs 6.50 billion, with Rs 290 million in exports. It’s a very popular name in markets for making authentic goods. The organisation now accepts all its working members as collective owners and they are referred to as ‘sisters’. It’s an all women organisation and is recognised by Khadi & Village Industries Commission. The tagline clearly says “an organisation of the the women, for the women and by the women.
8. Urmi Basu, Founder of New Light
Urmi Basu’s only mission is to save girls from sexual exploitation and to provide the children of sex workers a better life. She says, “On a global scale the problem of prostitution is so complex and huge that I would be completely overwhelmed if I think about it. I choose to reduce the aperture of my vision and concentrate my energy only on things that I can do.” The organization provides basic services like education, healthcare and nutritional support. It also protects the children from abuse, violence and stigma. New Light is the second home to more than two hundred children of sex workers. Urmi believes word of kindness can help the needy. She believes in peace and is fighting for justice. She is also featured in the second night of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.
9. Anita Ahuja, founder of Conserve India handbags
Born and brought up in Bhopa, Anita Ahuja settled in Delhi. She penned down Flames of Fervour after the 1994 riots. She was involved with the welfare associations and that led her to interact with the rag pickers. She started the Conserve India which works in the waste segregation operation. She worked together with her brother in converting plastic waste into material for handbags. Her design was a hit in local trade fairs. Now her company produces a lot of products including shoes. The team after a lot of experimentation have upcycled items by washing, drying and pressing bags into sheets. It produces handbags, wallets, shoes, belts.
10. Saloni Malhotra, founder of rural BPO Desi Crew
She grew up in Delhi and was a member of Leo Club in College. This association inspired her to work in developmental sector. She identified the deficiencies of the service industry in India where hiring manpower is not that developed. DesiCrew Solutions is an Indian Business process outsourcing (BPO) company. It was started in 2005 by Saloni Malhotra as a test project, sponsored by Ashok Jhunjhunwala’s TeNet group from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. The idea was to set up rural BPOs in Tier II towns and village, so that they could employ the unemployed youth, bring in the infrastructure, provide the necessary training and get projects and work for them from clients outside the state, across India. It differs from the urban BPOs by way of reduced costs (as much as 40% lesser), lesser attrition and free corporate social responsibility.
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