It is high time that we address the needs of women all over the world and help each other in building a community that acknowledges the rights of a woman. Women empowerment is a topic that people from privileged positions may not understand unless they witness the realities that are faced by women in vulnerable and remote areas.
The founding duo of Anahat for Change Foundation – Namrata Karamchandani and Purvi Tanwani, have left their careers behind to picture a better world for women. Namrata Karamchandani, with twelve years of experience in social research, observed the plight of grassroots communities through her extensive research projects which was the reason behind her founding of a Not-For-Profit. And Purvi Tanwani, who was always a people person left her 9 to 5 job working as a financial analyst with the urge for working with women and girls at the grassroots level.
The Anahat for Change Foundation and Team Sociobits got in touch to know more about the NGO and understand the tireless efforts the founders have made through their foundation. You can read about it in the interview below:
Team Sociobits: Will you please tell us a little about Anahat for Change Foundation?
Co-Founders: We began our journey with Anahat in 2018 and started a grassroots level organization that will speak and work for the empowerment of girls and women in vulnerable and remote areas. Anahat has been tirelessly working with women and adolescent girls of West Bengal.
Due to the strategic location, adolescent girls present at the border of West Bengal are vulnerable and unequipped to fight for their rights. We are working on a holistic community program where they work on behavioral change in the community around the rights and entitlements of women and girls, and create an enabling environment so that the girls and women can make free choices to enjoy their rights and entitlements
Team Sociobits: What are the issues that you are addressing through Anahat? and can you tell us a little about your brand Unnati?
Co-Founders: We work in the area of Menstrual Health and Hygiene, Sexual & Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), and Gender Equality. Apart from this, through our woman-supported brand called Unnati, we make reusable cloth pads, masks, baby diapers, and other sustainable products.
Unnati means ‘development’ in English and it is a brand that strives for woman empowerment in all possible ways. The brand showcases products that are organically made “By the women, For the woman”. Our primary line of products includes reusable cloth pads which are made by the women of Project Unnati- a sustainable livelihood project.
“Through our brand Unnati, we wish to diversify the product range and include baby diapers, kantha based products like masks, file covers, stoles, and cushion covers made by survivors of child marriage in Murshidabad.”-Purvi Tanwani, Co-Founder of Anahat
Team Sociobits: How has your journey with Anahat been so far?
Co-Founders: Our journey so far has helped us to grow in many ways. We have learnt from our mistakes and have always worked as a team. Starting Anahat merely out of passion and being fresh to the sector, we have faced various scenarios. Sometimes, the journey was incredible and sometimes, we needed to prove ourselves as a team. And the trick lies in how we took the challenges, shaped our future, and never gave up.
In three operational years of Anahat, we have had the privilege to work with the most prestigious organizations in India. We have had the opportunity to work with OXFAM, UNICEF West Bengal, World Vision, ITC, Govt. Of West Bengal and other prestigious names in Kolkata.
Apart from working hard to build our own capacity, I (Purvi Tanwani) have been an active member of Global Shapers Kolkata Hub, Winner of the YKA Action Network Grant, and the holder of a Diploma from the Swedish Institute Leader Lab 2021.
Team Sociobits: What are the challenges that Anahat has faced or may face?
Co-Founders: Fundraising, followed by lack of marketing techniques are some of the major challenges that we faced. As we mentioned that we started Anahat passionately, our network was limited. We put our heart and brain into making our projects successful but we paid little attention to marketing ourselves. Despite being one of the major organizations in West Bengal that is engaged in training and making reusable cloth pads, very few people know us. With a small team of 8 people, we work wholeheartedly for a project but when it comes to pitching for fundraising or marketing, we lag behind in many ways.
Surviving the COVID-19 pandemic was another major challenge that we faced. Being an organization that is always at the forefront, we had to take some serious decisions for our team during the lockdown and persistent period of pandemic. We worked hard to secure funds for covid relief and started normal operations during the lockdown.
Team Sociobits: Are there similar NGOs like Anahat?
Co-Founders: There are NGOs working in the same sector in West Bengal and also NGOs working on the topic of menstruation too. But the core area remains different. We work in the space of Menstrual Health & Hygiene for the last three years as the main component whereas other NGOs keep MHH as a side component of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). NGOs working on this issue have a different modes of operation. Majorly organizations that produce reusable cloth pads are social enterprises that are profit-making at the end of the day.
We work in a different model where we train women to make pads and include the product in their alternative livelihood. We do not make profits from the sale of pads. Our products purely support women and their livelihood needs.
Team Sociobits: What is Anahat currently focusing on? and what is your roadmap for the future?
Co-founders: Since we have been based out of Kolkata for three years, the last three months have been all about focusing on expansion plans which are aligned with fundraising and marketing for Anahat. In the future, we also want to branch out and start our operations in other states of India.
We are also focused on establishing a brand for the reusable cloth pads made by SHGs in order to give them a stable income throughout the year. We are also creating a workshop space for the ladies of a nearby slum, where they can work and earn an alternative livelihood for their families.
Through our brand Unnati, we wish to diversify the product range and include baby diapers, kantha based products like masks, file covers, stoles, and cushion covers made by survivors of child marriage in Murshidabad. We eventually plan to create a platform where these products can be sold to sustain the livelihood of more than 100 women involved in our projects. A new product like reusable baby diapers is currently in the R & D stage.
During our first year, we did a study on WASH facilities in 16 states of India which clearly showed the lack of menstrual hygiene management and ignorance among women & girls. We would like to address this issue and reach more and more adolescent girls and women through our program and address their needs effectively by being present in their location.
Society prefers “men” when you are dealing with vendors or suppliers. But we are quite hopeful for the future and we are definite that things will change.
Team Sociobits: As a woman entrepreneur, what are the challenges that you have faced?
Co-Founders: Women entrepreneurship has its own challenges and acceptances. It varies from person to person. One of the major challenges, we think, is to get people to accept a woman as a leader and to get her voice heard and her capabilities taken seriously. There is a lack of confidence in society for women entrepreneurs and they are often looked down upon as somebody who does not have knowledge. Society prefers “men” when you are dealing with vendors or suppliers. But we are quite hopeful for the future and we are definite that things will change.
The co-founders of Anahat are set to create a better living for girls and women by creating awareness about menstrual health and hygiene. Aiming to expand to other regions, they are creating a community of women who will take care of their health and create awareness among the women who come after them.