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With Giri Foundation, Megha B. Purohit, aims to empower and help mountain women become financially independent!
I have always been fascinated by the marvellous yet serene beauty of the mountains. There is something mystical about the woody smell that engulfs the forest and soothes the senses. So when I came across the Giri Foundation, I got excited to read and explore it and got to interview Megha B. Purohit, the founder and president of the Giri Foundation.
The Giri Foundation is a non-government organisation and is an initiative to get mountain women to be skilled and financially independent.
Having been born in the beautiful mountains in Katra, Vaishno Devi, Megha was always fascinated by the strength of women. The women who were worshipped as Goddess and considered Shakti – the power. After completing her law in Delhi and practising at the Supreme court, she moved out of India after her marriage.
She currently resides in San Francisco, US and works passionately to fulfil her dream to empower mountain women. And helps enable them to become financially independent.
Megha told me about her passion project the Giri Foundation on her birthday which coincidentally fell on the day of Maha Shivratri. It was an invigorating conversation that left me wanting to go visit the mountains and these mountain women!
When asked about her motivation to work towards the empowerment of the mountain women, she had some really interesting things to say. She said, “Today many organisations are working to empower the women in the plain region but not any one particular organisation is working for the women living in the mountains. The mountain women have tremendous potential and if given the right platform and good guidance they can become financially self-dependent, which I believe is a must in today’s time.”
She also spoke about the biases that women face on a daily basis that made her think of the project. “I was eight-years-old when I first realised that the world looks differently at girls. It happened when my school organised an ‘only boys school trip to trekking’. I questioned my school principal about these biases and I made sure that I was part of the same trekking group. And eventually, I ended up being the only girl among 100 boys in a 20 days trekking camp. That was the beginning of my expedition to break the stereotypes attached to women.”
As we spoke about stereotyping, Megha also told me about the empowerment she plans to do through the Foundation. Mainly through the ‘Beti kamao’ concept.
She said, “In the last few years, the Government of India has mostly focused on Beti bachao and Beti padhao but what about after that? Keeping that in mind, ‘Beti Kamao’ is an initiative to empower mountain women by helping them to acquire skills and giving them entrepreneurial opportunities.
“It’s important for a woman to be financially independent. Early in life, they are made to believe that they are supposed to cook food and do other household chores. So as the years advance, or when she gets married, her biggest cause of suffering becomes domestic violence. As she is financially dependent on her husband, she keeps on bearing the pain and misery in her life,” Megha continued.
Speaking of financial independence and its importance, Megha says, “For women, be it in a bad marriage or being dependent on anyone else, she doesn’t know how to survive if she doesn’t have good financial support. But this suffering can end if she becomes financially stable on her own. So Giri foundation’s initiative is to motivate women by encouraging them to start making at least small money that can gain her respect and earn a good living.”
As with every other organisation, especially ones geared towards empowering women, even Giri Foundation had some hurdles their way. While these weren’t major hurdles, Megha told me about them.
“There weren’t too many hurdles that I faced, as such. However, mountain people, in general, don’t like leaving their home. So we had to convince them that we will bring the business to you once you make up your mind to work.
“And since women think that their husband or families won’t allow them to work or support them or they will have to leave their household chores, it is important for them to come out of this mental barrier. There are some self-help groups appointed to help in resolving such issues,” she continued.
Giri Foundation mainly focuses on developing and selling textile and handicraft through global retail brands and corporate houses. They aim to see everything from pashmina to carpets and shawls to pahadi paintings and woodwork.
Says Megha, “We want to encourage women to create anything that they are good at. It could be a local pickle or even an embroidered handkerchief. We also work with national skill development centers to provide textile, handicraft, or data entry courses to women in the mountain.
“Apart from this, we would also like to collaborate with several travelling portals and service portals where these women can offer some local pahadi cuisines for the travellers. And conduct workshops to teach to cook local cuisines.
“As for these mountain women, the biggest challenge is to find a perfect market to sell, Giri foundation is an initiative to bring the marketplace to these women where they can sell and earn a respectful living,” she told me.
The main mission that Giri Foundation has is to provide financial independence to mountain women. They don’t have a lot of work for women in the mountain areas so the Foundation works as a platform for the women to work their homes and earn financial security.
Sharing her personal thoughts on the empowerment of women, Megha had to say this, “As women, we are always made to believe that we are a second class citizen of this world, it is time that we are treated as a first-class citizen. And to be empowered you have got to do what you got to do.”
In a world where women are shining, it is indeed a great pleasure to talk to someone who is working towards the uplifting of other women as well. If you want to know more about the Giri Foundation, you can check out their website right here!
Picture credits: Provided by Megha Purohit and the Giri Foundation
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