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How Crowdfunding Is Revolutionising The Way We Give Back To Society

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By Komal Ganotra

syrian refugeesWhen Gissur Simonarson photographed a distraught Syrian refugee selling pens on the streets of Beirut, with his visibly exhausted daughter slumped on his shoulder, he knew immediately he had to do something for this man. As the image went viral on social media, Simonarson created a fund-raising page for this man on a popular crowdfunding website. Nearly £10,000 were raised in just half an hour. 19 hours later, it had passed £33,000, and the figure kept escalating.

Simonarson was no celebrity. He was just an ordinary photographer moved by the plight of a refugee and determined to make a difference in his life. He is not alone. We see around us, thousands of people, like Simonarson, striving, in their own ways to make a difference by not just contributing to causes they feel passionately about but mobilizing others to support it as well.

As I read this story, my mind promptly drifted to another man’s journey – a young 25-year-old airline purser, Rippan Kapur, who back in the 1970s believed in the goodness of people and how each and every one in their own capacity can help the underprivileged. With a meager Rs50 as a starting fund, he relentlessly worked to urge people to fund for the cause of India’s children. He fuelled life into an organization that not just became a pioneer of individual fundraising methods but continues to be so, long after he is gone, making a sustainable impact in children’s lives. The organization is CRY.

We have always believed in the inherent “good” in every individual, the urge to do his or her bit for a social cause. Moreover, the youth is giving us hope that our belief remains strong and will be carried on through generations to come. Reading about Meera Mehta, a student in Mumbai, who relentlessly used online platforms and her own page to write about an NGO she passionately believed in, reinforces this belief. She urged people to donate for the cause of patients and children in rural India who cannot afford treatment. Meera, all of 15 years, raised 10 lakhs.

In recent times, individual contribution has further evolved to unified individual donors supporting a common cause, thus creating a wave of support. Moreover, social media, with its reach and popularity, has provided an unparalleled platform to garner support for causes, for anybody, anywhere in the world. The unprecedented rise of crowdfunding platforms is a testament to this belief. What seemed to be a new fad within the gamut of social media initiatives has turned out to be one of the most important platforms to create awareness and mobilize people to come together to contribute to a cause. It provides the perfect link between people who would like to raise funds for a cause and for people who feel equally excited by it. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter are further escalating the reach of these websites.

India, too, is no stranger no crowdfunding. According to a report by data and analytics firm Allied Crowds, crowdfunding in Asia’s developing countries led the emerging world last quarter with over US$41.1 million raised. India, interestingly, led the charge by raising US$12.4 million with three Indian cities (New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai) amongst the top five most active centres. India, they say, raises close to US$2 million a month via crowdfunding.

While international websites like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Causes, Startsomegood are popular, Indian websites like Ketto, Bitgiving are also increasingly giving competition to these. The innumerable campaigns for various causes by organizations, more so by individuals substantiates the trend of more people coming up to support causes. From challenging oneself beyond boundaries to achieve a tough task for a cause to pledging a personal milestone and raising funds while doing so, people are exploring different ways to achieve this.

Ujjawal Chauhan
Ujjawal Chauhan

The story of one of our volunteers, Ujjawal Chauhan, a final year IIT Kharagpur student who undertook what he called the “Madness Project”, last year is one such achievement. Undertaking a cross country bicycle ride, he traversed 4 states and covered 2,500 km from Kolkata to Mumbai capturing images of children for whom child labour is a day-to-day reality. As he set out on this personal challenge, Ujjawal helped CRY raise close to Rs 80,000 to ensure 100% enrolment in 12 villages he visited and make them child labour free.

Lately, we have experimented with crowdfunding yet again to raise funds and received tremendous support. Our ongoing campaign ‘Get Healthy, Give Healthy’, which encourages people to pledge their support for children of the country by raising funds via crowdfunding website Ketto. It requires them to set health targets for themselves and raise money for each milestone all along. It is overwhelming to see how employees, their friends and family are coming forward to support the pledges and donating for the cause of children.

This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting times for fundraising. Moving over celebrities and fancy events, the power of the individual, while always supreme, has begun to be more gloriously witnessed.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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