How Ahmedabad-based The Pink Foundation is sparking the entrepreneurial streak in underprivileged womenSnigdha Sinha
Harmeet Kaur Dawar, 27, has a master’s degree in Development Communications. Her work took her to far-flung rural pockets of the country, where she gained experience in dealing in issues relating to Dalits, women empowerment, NREGA, craft artisans, etc.
She recounts her experience,
My analysis said that be it rural or urban slums, majority of women lacked confidence related to general decision-making, financial independence, and even family planning. Working in extreme grassroots areas, I got the opportunity to gain primary raw experience of making use of rural communication and creating awareness across villages.
In 2014, Harmeet reached a point where she decided to start an NGO of her own to reach out to more people and solve more problems. Harmeet roped in her elder sister Manmeet, 35, and founded The Pink Foundation (TPF), an NGO headquartered in Ahmedabad. TPF is dedicated to serving underprivileged women and children with emphasis on four E’s – entrepreneurship, employment, education, and empowerment.
Harmeet talks about how she chose the name, “In colour psychology, pink is a sign of hope. A combination of red and white, power of red softened with the purity and openness of white. The deeper the pink, the more passion and energy it exhibits. By soaking our seed of passion for ‘serving’ into the soil of our developing society, we gave it the name ‘The Pink Foundation’. By pink, we also connote prosperity, inspiration, and nurturing.”
Initiatives under TPF
Currently, TPF is working in the area of women and child development. TPF helps underprivileged slum women with employment opportunities by training them to create handmade products. These women have learnt to make Diwali Diyas, natural bathing soaps, incense sticks, and cones. “It’s not just about the extra money, but the confidence these women gain by realising their potential,” adds Harmeet.
Project Swabhimaan sprouts the entrepreneurial skills and nurtures the leader in underprivileged slum women and people with disabilities to help them achieve sustainable livelihood. TPF sponsors a movable lorry for women who are the sole bread earners of their families.
Life skills-based education, vocational training programmes, talent enhancement initiatives, basic English lessons are some of the focus areas for children.
Revenue, team, and impact
TPF relies on individual donations to carry out its operations. Harmeet says that the first year of running TPF was exceptionally tough, more so financially, but this year, they’ve broken even.
TPF is run by a closely knit team of 10 members and a strong group of volunteers. While Harmeet handles public dealings, beneficiary coordination, social media engagements, and conducts weekly vocational classes with slum children with the help of volunteers, Manmeet leans on her strengths and takes care of the entire administrative aspect.
Harmeet talks about how volunteers are making TPF a success, “Our sessions mostly succeed because of a strong team of volunteers who are now capable of conducting classes even without us. Strong areas required in an organisation like photography, survey, documentation, graphic designing, field work, and fundraising are being carried out by them.”
In the span of two years, TPF has generated employment for 25 women and educated 50 children. “We are not running after increasing number of beneficiaries as we dream of quality empowerment,” adds Harmeet
Harmeet gives us an example of the transformation,
“Suman, a single mother of three beautiful daughters, is one of our beneficiaries who have been associated with TPF since the beginning. She was involved in our Diya Project and later joined in as a Field Resource person. But one incident shook us all. Her eldest daughter was sexually harassed by her neighbour in broad daylight. Seeing her condition, we initiated our project of sponsoring the lorry for her, other single mothers and handicapped people. Now she comes home anytime and often takes her daughters during working hours. She chooses to be an entrepreneur and earn her living like this.
Harmeet says that working in the social sector needs patience. “It takes a lot of patience and hard work to attain a certain amount of trust and attachment with the underprivileged community. I find it challenging to make people understand and recognise the significance of education for the reason that they have not been fortunate enough to taste the sweetness which worthy education brings along.”
Like many other NGOs and social enterprises, Harmeet find gathering funds a major challenge.
Harmeet’s big dream is to witness an intellectual and clutch-free India. She adds, “I am not saying educated because during my journey, I have met a lot of educated individuals but they are trapped in the clutches of caste and traditions and still making their opinions based on their age-old ill practices. Education is important to the extent it gifts you intellect.”
Harmeet recounts her interaction with an old lady who was part of TPF’s Diya Project. “The old lady said to me ‘I am illiterate. I have never attended school. But this paint brush feels like pencil to me. I feel so educated and energised’.” In the next five years, TPF wants to generate employment opportunities and empower women at the rate of at least 50 women per year, educate children, and bridge the gap between rural and urban pockets.