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The mountain women of India do not have access to the right opportunities, though they have a passion to work and be independent. San Francisco-based Giri Foundation is a non-profit organization formed to help women get skilled, financed, and get sustainable and stable work or entrepreneurial opportunities. Its vision is to extend India’s mission of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (save a girl, educate a girl) to include Beti Kamao (employ a woman), and provide employment to a million women in the mountains of India by 2025.
In this exclusive interview, we spoke to the Foundation’s Founder & President Megha B. Purohit, who spoke among other things about her personal journey from India to the US, how she is giving back to the mountain women of India, and her Foundation’s recent India chapter launch.
Tell us about your personal journey from India to the US.
Before leaving for the US, I was a practicing lawyer at the Supreme Court of India. Since I was born and raised in the Himalayas, my heart has always belonged to the hills. I first moved to New York and now live in San Francisco. I did a short course at Stanford. It was after moving to the US that I realized my extreme love for the Himalayas. I wanted to do something for my homeland and being an advocate of women’s equality from a very young age, I felt this is what needed support.
How did you decide to set up the Giri Foundation – your organization to help mountain women get skilled, financed, and sustainable work or entrepreneurial opportunities?
Mountain people rank among the most deprived sectors of the world’s population, and yet it is well recognized that their stewardship of mountain natural resources is closely linked to the sustainability of life in lowland areas. In mountain regions, as in the rest of the world, women, as a class, are more undernourished, more under-compensated for their labor, and more underrepresented in formal decision-making bodies. Giri Foundation, a non-profit organization, firmly believes that all women of the mountains should get an adequate opportunity to showcase their skills and earn their deserved percentage. It not only helps in empowering today’s women but also boosts their confidence, moreover benefits their skillset. It also overpowers the practice of disdain and despair inflicted on the women of our society.
Tell us how the Giri Foundation is working towards building one million jobs by 2025 for the mountain women of the Himalayan region through the different areas that you work in (textile, handicraft, pashmina, carpets, paintings, woodwork, cuisine, workshops, corporate brands, data entry, loans, etc.) as part of its mission of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Beti Kamo.
Through ongoing years what has received less attention, however, is the dominant role that women in these mountain areas play in natural resource management, agricultural production, as well as the wellbeing and very survival of mountain families, including children. To cut it short, education and skill alone aren’t enough to get more women to work in the Himalayas. Our mission is to employ a million women in the mountains of India by 2025. We will ride on the infrastructure created by the Government of India on Skill India and Mudra Yojana (financial support), while heavily investing to find the right opportunities globally in the fields of textile, handicrafts, and crowdsourcing and help them microfinance their startup capital. As we all know, local ownership, alternative sources of income, women empowerment, and long-term sustainable livelihoods will help us evolve a change in the mountain women‘s lives towards a forthcoming future.
Give us an idea of the impact you have had so far.
So far, we have received a positive response from the people. We are really glad and appreciate the fact that we gained a good amount of supporters in a short period. We are privileged to have met the women working for us and to have them trust us and help us attain our desired goals with them. Due to Covid 19, the work has been a bit slow but we have connected with various existing NGOs in India and around 30,000 women in the hills. We are in the process of building more and more connections, which will soon lead to further project plans.
What are some of the challenges you have had to face in this journey?
As a community of women supporters, we have faced a lot of troubles, but we have conjured all the obstacles thrown our way through our team support and strategies. Though during our journey we have faced quite a few issues two of which being, convincing the mountain women to go with us and to have them build trust in our foundation for their empowerment and upliftment. The second was to convince their families to let them work to support them and give women financial independence.
How can one support the organization?
If you believe in women’s equality and independence for mountain women, then you can help either by donating on your own will or through consuming the handmade goods made by the women are available on the Foundation’s website.
With the Foundation’s recent India Chapter launch, what are your plans for the future?
The main aim is to make mountain women essentially more skilled in the area of their expertise, financially stable to have sustainable, stable work, and the experience of entrepreneurial opportunities. Our vision, furthermore, extends to boosts India‘s campaign of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (save a girl, educate a girl) to include Beti Kamao (employ a woman). And to provide the mountain women of India with a possibility of access to an equal scope of employment, like urban women who have a passion to work and make a living independently.
Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.