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Goonj – Echoing back the plight of Indian women

My Big Plunge - Goonj


Goonj – Echoing back the plight of Indian women

While India is applauded all around the world for its rapid economic growth and rising power, a look deeper into our own backyard reveals that things may not be how they seem to be. India is rampant with poverty and making even the simplest of necessities like food, shelter and clothing hard to access. Combined with our gender-biased norms, women are affected the most since our society clearly demeans them due to a multitude of reasons that range from lack of education, rigid thought processes or just the age-old tradition of favouring males.

To think about the entire issue, food and shelter are still addressed by various campaigns and organizations around the country. However, clothing is something that is still neglected. Things get worse in the rural regions where the women do not have access to something as basic and crucial as sanitary pads and have to use dirty rags or even leaves. Not only is this a major health hazard in itself, it surely depicts an uglier side of our nation and a dark reality that is often not made public to the masses. Women deserve all the dignity they want yet their cries go unheard.

Today, a few individuals are taking massive efforts to make the lives of these women better by not only providing with the necessary items but also long-term services like employment. Anshu Gupta and Meenakshi Gupta, founders of Goonj, are fitting examples of such people who have worked day and night to provide a better tomorrow for the women of India and continue to do so with enduring spirit.

Goonj was founded in 1999 and today employs a hardcore team of 180 people. It aims at creating material solutions from trash and used items and follows a vision of providing the much-deserved dignity to all humans equally. The ‘Cloth for work’ campaign by them was a successful initiative to provide clothing as a resource for grassroots development work. The NGO brought the issue of the massive lack of sanitary pads in rural areas; about how women have to resort to things from sand, ash, leaves etc. to work as a sanitary pad. Their campaign ‘My Pad’ showcased not just the product but moreover, the larger issue of the dignity.

“It’s very easy to call it a woman’s issue. But I always argue on that subject. It is not a woman’s issue; it is a human issue. If condoms can be distributed free of cost, how come sanitary pads are not available even in the government public health centers? “ speaks Anshu.

The NGO operates in various states today and continues to turn every day junk like clothes, household goods and discarded items into usable resources for the less privileged. Moreover, Goonj has also played instrumental roles in providing relief to disaster-struck regions of the country.

India needs more organisations like Goonj, but more importantly, a similar mind-set where people are not discriminated over gender or status. Every human has the right to dignity.
While the change may not be overnight, the country is slowly listening to such worrisome issues and coming up with effective solutions. The need to bring better sanitation for women has been addressed and rural regions have seen a growth in the number of women toilets. Furthermore, schemes like the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao are playing vital roles in generating awareness and working on female-friendly welfare solutions.

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