Abhijit Pawar interacting with members of Tanishka Foundation
"I was able to rally all stakeholders from the poorest of the poor to the rich, as well students, judiciaries, and more importantly all political parties, bringing them together to collaborate around a huge traffic problem that everyone was facing. We created a 'Pune Bus Day' where everyone participated with great enthusiasm in music, entertainment and fun activities organized— while families came together to collaborate. Instead of demonstrating and arguing, they celebrated solutions to a problem. From that experience, I studied different economic models of various countries where governments were struggling to get agreement from opposition or with people at large to implement change towards contributing to the interest to the society."
- Abhijit Pawar,
Founder and Chairman, Delivering Change Foundation;
Managing Director, Sakal Media Group;
YPO member since 2004
The heart of the problem
Invariably, I found that communities and relationships were at the heart of the problem and the solution, and at the core of these communities and relationships was the family unit, often held together by the woman. The role of women appeared vital not only for the family but for the nation as a whole. I began to look at different countries and cultures in terms of families and relationships, with women playing a paramount role in resolving conflicts and other problems. My starting point was villages where women had no voice or status, often living a subdued existence. I used some of YPO forum principles, such as non-judgement and active listening, to train a group of 6,000 women from different villages to learn to think about social and other issues facing their village. We asked them not to talk about individual issues but address village problems in a formal structured
way. The dignity and respect with which we treated them gave these women the confidence to form powerful advocacy groups standing together to create positive impact in their villages. Within the first year, the groups moved to neighbouring cities.
Powerful voices for change
Since then, we have replicated the model across hundreds of villages and cities, creating networks of women to solve all sorts of problems. Women who had nothing to say have started their own businesses or become community leaders while helping each other to solve issues related to their villages and cities – from addressing health care needs to ensuring government social welfare benefits are protected.
I genuinely believe the key to unlocking a woman’s potential is not only women empowerment or giving equal pay to men and women. However, it is also about treating women with dignity and respect so that they can contribute to a progressive society. Even in more developed countries, women are often lacking dignity and respect. A woman who says, “I’m just a house wife” still feels stigmatized in spite of her contribution to the children and managing the home and finances. Unless women are respected, staring from the family level, societies can’t achieve real transformative change and conflict resolution to many of their
A Global Impact
Today, women of Tanishka Foundation can shape the election of candidates in a state of 110 million, connecting the grass root population to ministers with plans to further integrate their role in the Indian government. News of the success stories from India has spread and we have developed a model to scale the experience and share their learnings so that other passionate champions can replicate our success. In Mexico, the model has just begun and we are laying the foundation for similar networks across the world, including Europe. Besides the fact that I personally get huge satisfaction from seeing the positive impact of this movement led by groups of women who previously had no voice, the work has contributed indirectly to other business opportunities. While that was never the intention, it proved that starting with a passion and commitment to a cause can, in turn, lead to creative and lucrative business opportunities.
Abhijit Pawar is the recipient of the YPO Gobal Impact Legacy Honor celebrating those who are dedicated to leading YPO and to whom social responsibility is a vital aspect of their business and personal lives. The award recognizes members leaving a lasting legacy on the organization as well as the world.