Our guest for the third Q&A session - Mr Sanjay Kumar is the founder and Executive Director of Manjari Foundation based out of Dholpur, Rajasthan.
For the last two decades, he has had intense engagement and experience in women empowerment, grassroots institutions, social justice and rural economic opportunities. He was awarded the prestigious International Ford Foundation Fellowship for the period of 2006-2008. He was recognised for his commitment to the cause of social justice, poverty eradication, and women empowerment.
Here are the top three questions from our interview -
What was the inspiration behind getting into the development space?
Pradhan gave me an opportunity to explore this world which is grassroots engagement. When I was just graduating from my BTech, I came down to Dholpur from Delhi to spend a week in the field. Weeks turned into months and eventually a year passed.
That year actually gave me an opportunity to explore what exactly I would like to do in my career - being in the development sector or working at the grassroots. The kind of work I was doing in the field gave me the feeling that the corporate sector was not something that would give me satisfaction.
By 2015, I decided, along with my colleagues, to extend our work to the interior places of Rajasthan and Bundelkhand. And since then, it has been seven years of our small journey as Manjari Foundation.
We have been able to reach out to more than 100,000 rural women as of now, covering 14 districts within Rajasthan and Bundelkhand and one district in Uttrakhand.
If you can tell us a little more about the activities of the Manjari Foundation and also why did you choose these specific areas?
Why we chose to work in the places that we are working right now is because of the poverty clusters and the societal issues. If you take the example of Rajasthan, we have a very conservative and patriarchal society. And when it comes to the impact of poverty, it is the women within the society and the kids who suffer more.
The central, southern and eastern parts of Rajasthan, which is the Chambal river basin, and also Bundelkhand - are the places where one would like to see some positive things happen over a longer period of time. These are very typical places where most of the mainstream services, policies, projects or civil society have not been able to reach for a variety of reasons. And one of the reasons is their remoteness. So this is why we are working in those places
What do you think about the role credit can play to enable entrepreneurship?
We're looking at people who are just getting started. People who have started and need to go to the next level. There are different needs for capital as well.
The startup, working, and scale-up capital.
Accessing finances for these people has always been a challenge. Besides credit, you also need to create an environment where they can actually succeed. They also need access to technology, access to technical knowledge, and know-how.
But more importantly, there has to be someone who can appreciate the spirit behind all these women coming together and then believe in their capabilities. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ We asked many more questions to Sanjay Kumar in this conversation which gave us insightful information on women's enterprises and the work Manjari Foundation is doing, like - - the types of rural enterprises - employment generation through entrepreneurship - livelihood generation for household women If you’re interested in watching the full conversation, head on to https://youtu.be/dfwJCNCXANY