Asha Ramanathan, Partner and India Diversity Leader
There exist many issues that have plagued the development of India – sanitation and hygiene, women empowerment, rise of urban poor, basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, etc. which has created a pressing need to address these challenges.
It is through the PwC India Foundation, that PwC has stepped in to provide a holistic intervention with the aim to break this vicious cycle. We are especially aligned in our approach to provide support to those impacted by the devastating droughts across the country. To my understanding drought need not be a death sentence for farmers experiencing extreme vulnerability because I believe we can save a thousand lives if we intervene before it’s too late.
At Mumbai, through many initiatives such as marathons, blood donation camps, visits to tribal hamlets, engaging with girls rescued from human trafficking or be it volunteering at NGOs and schools, our employees have always come forward to volunteer and experience the sheer joy of giving back to the community. I’d like to shed light around a few interventions that are particularly close to my heart.
Aurangabad and Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh are two regions known to be constantly afflicted by drought, our engagements with our partner NGOs has helped farmers get educated around correct agricultural procedures as well as supporting farmers with organic seeds. In fact, these farmers are now working together to develop a water conservation mechanism thereby creating sustainable change. In Aurangabad until now, 43 wells have been repaired which is already showing greater recharge.
In Bundelkhand, repair and construction of water resource structures for irrigation, drinking water and traditional harvesting structures for families and livestock is complete which means they now have access to portable drinking water. Many villagers were encouraged to start kitchen gardens which has increased their source of nutrition as well as their income.
Secondly, we’ve worked hard to empower villagers, especially women. We learnt that ignorance of law, low literacy levels and poor infrastructure are some of the challenges faced by the Gram Panchayat representatives, especially the women in utilisation of Government funds effectively at local levels. We have pledged to empower 40 Gram Panchayat women representatives in the tribal areas of Palghar and Jawhar. Here the challenge around migration was observed as youth are relocating to nearby cities for odd jobs to make ends meet. We have engaged with them to provide rainwater storage bodies and mango saplings to address their immediate need. The saplings are expected to grow into fruit bearing trees over the next five years earning them revenue and these storage bodies will make sure they have sufficient water supply for the trees.
Thirdly, children who are our future leaders of tomorrow - require a conducive environment to grow, nourish and take systematic steps to take charge of their future. By constructing toilets in six schools we are working at making sure clean and safe sanitation facilities are available for children to remain healthy and focus solely on their education.
Another intervention includes supporting children who are differently abled. In partnership with our NGOs, we are working towards firming up an inclusive environment for these kids as they receive a holistic education and an opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities. We now not only support the school financially, but also have our employees visit the school or bring children to our Mumbai offices on special days.
We’ve also reached out to distressed girls rescued from begging, thievery and prostitution through our partner NGO Maher in Pune. We’ve stepped up to support Maher that is working towards creating an atmosphere of love and acceptance conducive to the emotional and physical growth of these girls so that they can realise their full potential.
We have our eyes set on a future that is brighter and a tomorrow that is better than today. To make this happen, we see education from a different lens: to change the mind-set of youth around their civic and socio-economic rights. We intend to expand the team to form a larger pool of individuals that can step in to make a difference as we look to increase sustainable and more holistic engagement opportunities.
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