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Lavanya Bahuguna

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Parul Mehta Of NGO Ishanya On Providing Health Facilities & Vocational Training To Maharashtrian Women

  • IWB Post
  •  August 9, 2019

 

Pune’s Parul Mehta founded NGO Ishanya back in 2006 after devoting herself to the betterment of the rural women for years. She realized that building an institute could be of more help to this vulnerable group as it would assist them to get recognition.

She was right. Ishanya soon began conducting workshops and vocational training programs for women who showed interest in creating a bright career for themselves. As years passed by, Ishanya carried various other flagship programs to give opportunities to more women.

We spoke to Parul about the hundreds of women working under her guidance and which of their stories have been the most moving experience for her personally.

What is the earliest memory you have of Ishanya?

Going to the nearby villages, interacting with the women and encouraging them to give a direction to their talent. By talent, I mean the knack of local art that they’d inherited from their forefathers.

This required a lot of traveling, I’m sure. Was it difficult to indulge those women in dialogues?

People who are a little less educated can get intimidated by those unlike them. It took me some time to gain their trust, but once they were on board, everything was like flowing water.

What was one of the first projects that these women undertook?

We revolted against the plastic bags and took charge of sewing thousands of cloth bags instead. We exceeded our expectations and came up with more than 24,000 such bags that we later distributed across the Pune city. This was around 11 years ago.

Whoa, that’s inspiring! What challenges did you face as a team?

The problem of commitment. As newcomers, we struggled with deadlines. Furthermore, to get the bags a perfect finishing was another hurdle we faced. After all, we had no prior exposure to the market. But I guess, we still did an excellent job!

You certainly did. Share about your vocational training courses.

Women from every age-group can be a part of this program. Along with spoken English classes and soft skill development, we make these women a part of our dialogue-session once a month where we discuss general topics like hygiene, financial independence, health, relationship, etc. to guide those stuck in everyday life matters.

Would you like to share any emotional story of an Ishanya member?

We also provide medical help to those underprivileged. There was this teenage girl who was in dire need of a kidney transplant. Her mother was the only candidate, but she refused to donate. It took us more than two months of counseling to convince her to save the life of her daughter.

The girl is healthy now. We did a Telly course at Ishanya and now earns a handsome salary at a local office.

Angel Program and Yellow Ribbon Program are NGO Ishanya’s line-ups. What’s their mission?

Angel Program invites women over 40 to mentor the young girl of NGO Ishanya as mothers. There are times when these girls have no one to talk to about the usual dilemmas like what to wear at the workplace, how to make new friends, how to deal with bad relationships, etc. To help them out, we invite elderly women from outside who listen to these young souls like their own child and guide them with compassion and wisdom.

On the other hand, the Yellow Ribbon Program allows the talented girls of Ishanya to showcase their artwork in the market. We hold exhibitions where these artists are given space to put up their handcrafted items on display. The visitors are encouraged to buy these products and support the women artisans both morally and financially.

NGO Ishanya

You’ve been working alongside these women artisans for years now. What difficulties do they face compared to the male counterparts?

The pressure of work at home often prevents women from giving their 100% to their passion/career. But I’m amazed to see how these women have been championing the game of work-life balance. In spite of what they go through in their personal lives, they try their best not to let it affect the work and I respect this attitude very much.

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