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Darpan Salutes

Goonj: Dignity for work

By Mrinalini Sundar, 24 Sep, 2020
  • Goonj: Dignity for work

Goonj was started by Clothing Man aka Anshu Gupta, one of India’s leading social entrepreneurs. He was the one who moved away from the conventional – giver’s pride to the unconventional – receiver’s dignity.

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More often than not, people living in cities have everything in abundance. The economically well-to-do category of the society is spoilt for choice when it comes to food, restaurants and leisure activities. Well, nothing is wrong in it. But what happens to all the urban discards – in terms of clothes and equipment? That’s where Goonj steps in.


No, they are not an organization that picks things up from the rich and redistributes it to the poor. According to its website, Goonj is an idea across regions, economies and countries using urban discards as a tool to alleviate poverty and enhance the dignity of the poor in the world. It addresses basic but neglected issues of the poor by involving them in evolving their own solutions with dignity and urban material as a reward.

The organization based in Delhi has some basic principles and strategies that they follow. Their main motto is to build and maintain a connection of empathy, dignity and values between the issues of the poor and the rich. Leveraging traditional wisdom and empowering already available resources, time and skills is the next big effort for the team. Considering the sensitive topic, the organization approaches the complex and interwoven challenges of poverty and discards, in a human-centered and community-driven way. The organization also supports communities in cities and villages to thrive and evolve sustainably. In the bigger picture, the organization aspires to listen deeply to their communities, be responsive, plant ideas in the communities, and work alongside their partners.

The value system that runs in the organization is pretty solid which explains how the team has been intact since 1999. Who are the visionaries behind this initiative? The organization was started by Clothing Man aka Anshu Gupta, one of India’s leading social entrepreneurs. He was the one who moved away from the conventional – giver’s pride to the unconventional – receiver’s dignity. He is also the receiver of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award in 2015. He is joined by his wife, Meenakshi Gupta, who is also considered the backbone of the company and is working with Anshu and the team on building pan India civic engagement through powerful communication with the masses.

Their initiatives are simple yet profound – from making ponds, canals, wells, reservoirs, check dams, rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharging, cleaning and reviving, road repair, dustbin making, cleaning of hand-pump, land bunding, creating kitchen gardens, to a plantation and vermicompost pit making, rural folks are indulging in all this and a lot more activities thanks to Goonj.

There is also one for children and students. The School to School initiative addresses the educational needs of thousands of remote and resource-starved village/ slum schools by channelizing under-utilized material of city’s affluent schools not as a thing to distribute but as a tool to bring about comprehensive behavior change in the recipients and the contributors, says their website. What is the outcome, while urban children learn to be more empathetic towards rural issues; rural children learn to own a sense of achievement and positive behavior? The one thing lacking and needs immediate attention in rural areas is the lack of menstrual hygiene. The website narrates the story of a woman who died because she wore a blouse with a rusted hook. The idea behind this initiative is to address the gaps and challenges of menstrual hygiene and management by engaging comprehensively with all key stakeholders. Their three-step approach includes – awareness, affordability and access. The main aim of the program is to motivate rural women and communities to use their wisdom, communicate, and address sanitation-related issues. The team also provides cloth sanitary pads to women who have no access to resources.

Green by Goonj is another successful campaign started to reuse, up-cycle every last shred of material available with the team. According to the website, “A range of over 100 different products like purses, fancy bags, file folder, mats, etc made from torn jeans, obsolete audio tapes, one side used paper, etc, shows the ingenuity, craftsmanship and design aesthetics of women from nearby slums involved in making these products. Buying ‘Green by Goonj’ products ensures that our work in rural India continues unhindered irrespective of large/small funding support.”

Goonj did their bit in this fight against the pandemic. They have organized for over 2.5 million kilograms of rice, manufactured masks, and provided vegetables to the people with no access. If you would like to join the movement, the steps are simple – you can either donate online, partner with them, intern or work for them, or simply donate goods – clothes, school material, paper, dry ration, office equipment, woolens, toys and games, furniture, footwear or sewing machines, can all be contributed towards the cause. The other thing you can do to support Goonj is to purchase products that are made by the Green Goonj project. Browse through their product catalog and order online. It is all about going back to our roots, our villages, and our country.



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