It is clear that the purpose cut out for an NGO is other than just generating profit. Most importantly, they work for the benefit of human welfare and to better society. For those who move towards this territory, the big pull is always an opportunity to work towards social impact. Of course, it is bound to usher in drastic changes in work and life style.
This is exactly what Meenakshi Gupta experienced. Discussing “Reflections from a Life of Communicating for a Cause” she spoke about Goonj, which she and her husband Anshu Gupta, had co-founded – aiming to build an equitable relationship of strength, sustenance and dignity, between the cities and villages.
Founded in 1999, today, Goonj is well spread out across India. The questions they tried to find answers were packed with sensitive issues. Can urban discard be used as a tool to alleviate poverty? How can the poor be involved in evolving their own solutions with dignity? Why must we focus on the receiver’s dignity instead of the donor’s pride?
They had noticed that in spite of being such an urgent need, government policies had undervalued or ignored the value of clothing. So, the Delhi-based NGO Goonj stepped in consciously – to change this scenario. It takes excess clothes from the privileged, repairs or recycles them, and gives them to the needy. What’s more, by ensuring that people earn the clothes they receive, the NGO also retains their dignity and self-respect.
In many rural communities, people would not have purchased new clothes in over a decade. Urgent necessities like woollens and even sanitary pads are either unaffordable or unavailable in the local village market, which is the only market poor people have access to. But, by and large, this does not mean that Goonj gives away clothes and utensils for free.
Firstly, how did the idea bloom? “For me Goonj was an idea which made me churn inside in a big way”, disclosed Meenakshi and added – “it was fun and it kind of introduced me to my country in a big way” Quite prominently, she openly admitted that “It made me familiar with Bharat, being a Delhi girl or being a communication person”. There was something happening inside which said that there’s so much she did not know and she confessed – “this still stays with me!”
The second part was giving voice to those who are voiceless and that’s what communication does, she pointed out. “That’s when you really have to lose your lens about things,” she revealed.
The going was tough and nothing was handed over in a plate. “The biggest challenge to my mindset was the language and the lens we apply. In fact, the language is the most powerful tool you have and it actually sets the narrative. When you give something to Goonj, it’s not ‘donating’ but ‘discarding’. That changes the lens!”
That opened up doors to a new life altogether. “It was such a debrief of what I had imbibed from being urban and a communication person: to relearn everything!” – was her parting shot!
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