Updated: May 30
Our Program Manager, Lauren Lewis, sat down with our RISE Fellow, Purvi Tanwani to discuss the impact that her fellowship has had on her social enterprise, the women she has employed as well as young girls benefitting from her work in West Bengal, India. Continue reading below to learn more about what Purvi has been able to accomplish since starting the RISE Fellowship.
"How did the RISE Fellowship support your social enterprise?"
After a series of interviews, my fellowship began on the 10th of November 2021. Each time I met with Sundara’s team I was filled with more confidence and motivation to bring my project to life. The RISE team have been very understanding and supportive throughout my journey.
My fellowship included monitory support which enabled me to scale up Project Unnati in West Bengal. With the seed funding, we have trained women to make reusable cloth pads, taught them how to market their products, purchased sewing machines, and supported our trainees to make 2,000 cloth pads. We also used the funds to develop a new product, Unnati baby diapers, to support low-income mothers. So far, we have finalized the product design, trained 10 women to make the diapers and received orders for +2,000 reusable pads.
On top of the seed funding I have received mentorship from professionals who tailor their support to the needs of my organization. My co-worker, Namrata, and I have received support on increasing sales, social media marketing and more.
"What impact has the fellowship had on women in the community?"
Since the beginning of the fellowship, I have been able to support over 260 women. I have trained 20 government health care workers in Nadia on the importance of sustainable menstruation, trained 40 women to sew reusable pads and taught our beneficiaries to operate Juki, a high capacity sewing machine, used for making diapers.
Through my work women have gained the confidence to normalize talking about menstrual care products. They have received training to make hygiene kits, which include reusable pads, underwear and a storage pouch. The women have been able to gain an income which they use to look after their families and send their children to school. Additionally, we have provided women from underprivileged backgrounds with free products along with proper knowledge and awareness on menstrual health so that they are able to safely manage their periods.
Through our projects, we provide a supportive and safe environment for young girls to talk about these issues and receive an empowering education about menstrual hygiene. We create a period positive environment by providing girls with information about a range of products and we engage them with games to break myths and taboos. Lastly, we advocate for proper infrastructure in schools for the girls so that they can safely manage their periods without needing to skip school.
"What was the community's access to reusable pads like before the fellowship and how has this changed over the past 6 months?"
Before our intervention, 60% of women used disposable sanitary napkins or other resources to manage their periods. Since the beginning of Unnati, close to 1,200 women and girls have either purchased a Unnati pad from our trained beneficiaries or have received pads as a part of our distribution drive.
"How has the fellowship supported your confidence as an entrepreneur?"
The fellowship has helped me to create a vision for the brand ‘Anahat Unnati’. After hours of mentorship on social media handling and brand management, we were able to design a vision board for our brand ‘Anahat Unnati’. After the fellowship, I am more confident about promoting the brand and talking about its objectives and vision. Additionally, the mentorship sessions have helped me to understand how to present our work and pitch our idea in the most effective manner to gain further support.
"What do you envision the future of Anahat NGO looking like? What are your plans? How can people continue to follow your journey?"
We would like to scale up operations in other states of India. We see ‘Anahat Unnati’ as a mainstream brand that talks about sustainability and livelihood. We would like our products to be considered for bulk relief distributions and corporate donations. We also want to create sales channels that can provide regular income to women who can look at this as a full-time opportunity rather than providing women with an alternative livelihood option. We are also in the process of receiving our FCRA which can open our doors for foreign funding and we would love to gain additional support.
"Is there anything else that you would like to share?"
I would like to thank each one of RISE’s donors and the mentors who make the fellowship possible. My request to anyone reading would be to continue supporting female entrepreneurs in future. There are many talented minds across the globe who have innovative and transformative ideas, yet require the right mentorship and supportive environment to make change happen!