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The Silent Heroines of the Indian Growth Story

by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy

[box]Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, co-founder of a funding organisation, Social Investment Foundation of India, talks about the importance of reaching out to women to put India on a definite track to development.[/box]

The Indian growth story is a phrase that is quite often used in the media. Stories of Engineering and MBA graduates powering growth-rates through large corporate houses always seem to find their way into our ears.  Along with China, India is said to be the future of a world which is increasingly beginning to look eastward.

But behind the hype, India is still largely a developing nation. A survey on education-levels of 15–year-olds was Kyrgyzstan’s only claim to fame as the country ranked below us.  Shanghai, which participated in the survey for China, was right at the top with the likes of Finland and Singapore. In healthcare, Dr.Manmohan Singh was ‘ashamed’ to see that 42% of Indian infants were malnourished. We are looking at healthcare and education, the foundations of any society, and they are in complete shambles.  It is not just audacious to compare ourselves with China, it is stupid.

When Mohammad Yunus started the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, he targeted women to take loans that he offered. Why did he do that? Because he believed women are more committed and trustworthy. More significantly, they can plan their own fertility and subsequently make choices in household savings. These are instrumental choices which shape developing nations. We started the Social Investment Foundation of India (SIFI) on similar principles and invested in healthcare and education, both of which have a large workforce of women as nurses and teachers spread across our country.

In our visits to the field, we come across countless nurses in Government Hospitals across Tamil Nadu. They patiently operate the manual pumps when the power goes off, shutting the ventilator-support down. We found babies, hardly a month old, separated from their mothers.  Babies have an emotional bonding with their mothers, but these nurses fill that void easily through their commitment. Most government hospitals in our country are severely under-staffed and under-equipped.  We see that nurses are extremely adept at handling these situations and making that extra-effort to deliver the government’s promise to each tax-paying citizen, so that no one shall be turned away from healthcare for the lack of money. Through our campaigns, we plan to better equip these hospitals through ventilators, syringe pumps and other such equipments which helps these nurses perform better.

The teachers of our country are no far behind. Imagine you live in a village, studying in Class IV. Your parents are farmers who might have failed at Class VIII and then dropped out of school. Most of your neighbors are from a similar background. Who would you look up to for inspiration? The most educated person whom you would meet is your teacher.  These are teachers in Government schools who have finished their Teacher Training course, which is their degree in post-graduation.  For a young girl, who wants to have a software job in the city, she would solely have to depend on these teachers. For them, these teachers are a window to the world they have always wanted to live in. SIFI is supporting a group of 10 children with learning disabilities in the Tamil town of Madurai.We are working alongside the teachers in the school to help them learn. If not for the commitment of their regular teachers, for these 10 kids, education would be a dream deferred and ultimately a dream denied.

At SIFI, we always answer every question with ‘How much impact would it create?’ We have found that investing in programs that are centered on women, like teaching and healthcare, create more impact. We quite often hear them saying: “Though I didn’t get that opportunity, I want to make sure that the children belonging to the next generation go to a good college.” This emotional-will to perform is powerful. Staying in remote villages or working long shifts in government hospitals, sometimes cannot be purely motivated by money.  These committed women are no lesser than those in the army or the navy who dedicate their lives in service of our country.

SIFI was formed by like-minded youngsters who had a passion to create social impact. Moving beyond passion to make a change in society, we understand that doing ‘good’ needs to go hand-in-hand with being efficient. Our vision is to create impact that is long-lasting and self-sustaining.  To create such an impact we needed to partner with those who are eventually the ‘agents of change’. In all our interactions on the field for our healthcare and education projects, we found that the people who shared our commitment most were mostly young girls who had taken up teaching or nursing as a profession.  When we ask them why they chose this profession, they look at us with bewilderment and  if it was only the most natural thing they had to do with their lives. Tomorrow would be no different. They would wake up and go about their job in their usual unassuming way.  At SIFI, we hope to provide these young women the required means to do so.

SIFI is a Non-Government Organization formed in 2011, which seeks to provide a strong and transparent medium to contribute to the society by investing in sustainable NGOs and social projects in the fields of healthcare and education. Currently, they are seeking funds to equip government hospitals with ventilators. For more information, visit http://www.sifindia.com/

Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy is one of the founders of SIFI. He graduated in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Calicut after which he worked in a Fortune 500 oil company. He is currently working full-time in an NGO in education apart from working on SIFI, the funding organization.

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