In a few weeks, I will turn 89. Each year, I’ve strived to live a more full and meaningful life and this year will be my best yet. I’ve had the privilege to do a great many things in my years from traveling all over the world to fighting for social justice and campaigning for issues such as women’s rights and inclusivity, causes close to my heart. My achievements are also those of the other incredibly brave individuals who join me in our collective mission to make the earth more fair and equitable and who work to empower underserved communities every day. I love to interact with organizations who share my passion. Through this first article in this series, I will tell you about Asia Initiatives (AI), a New York based non-profit that works for empowerment and livelihoods for women and their communities in India, Ghana, Kenya and the United States.
Asia Initiatives’ innovative Social Capital Credits (SoCCs) ideology is a brilliant breakthrough in the way people think about development. AI believes that people are the best agents to solve pressing problems in their own community. AI’s SoCCs methodology pushes communities to take charge of their own development trajectories. Asia Initiatives brings together communities in SoCCratic dialogues to create SoCC Earning and Redeeming menus, centered on solving specific problems that participants view as most pressing. People earn SoCCs for acts of social good such as tree plantation, rainwater harvesting, helping in health camps and helping children with homework. In exchange, individuals redeem SoCCs for healthcare, education or skills empowerment, and capital to start micro enterprises, creating a multiplier effect for each development dollar. AI serves over 10,000 women and their families every year.
Among their many projects that has impressed me is their project serving 600 girls (soon to be doubled) which Asia Initiatives is doing in partnership with the Shohratgarh Environmental Society (SES), a local NGO in Lucknow, India. AI has created ten Gender Resources Centers for these girls, located in public facilities likes schools. The centers help girls stay in school, provide classes in digital literacy and English language and connects them to employment schemes run by the Government of India. Learning modules such as reproductive and sexual health education and vocational skills are also included. Girls redeem their SoCCs for this program, while earning SoCCs for teaching those three years or more younger than themselves. This project is truly holistic, focusing on simultaneous economic, social and educational well-being, all at once.
Another wonderful project I like is their livelihood empowerment project in nine villages in the Bundelkhand region of India. Through a generous grant provided by the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation, AI has partnered with Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan, a local organization to implement the SoCCs program, and to distribute very low interest revolving loans for starting goat rearing enterprises to women living in this drought prone region. Among all livestock, goats are the most sturdy and easy to care for. The project is aimed at increasing non-farm employment incomes, especially women, and enhance nutrition through goat milk, dairy products, and the sale of goats. Women are given necessary training and financial literacy skills to successfully care for the goats, receive regular veterinary check ups and the sale of goats. The project is raising the status of participant women within their families and communities by positioning them as income earners and entrepreneurs.
These are just two examples of the amazing work AI is doing. You can learn more about AI’s work, their upcoming event at the Consulate of India on May 1, and their Gala in October at www.asiainitiatives.org. Stay tuned to hear more about the work of Asia Initiatives, and the other people and organizations that keep me energized!