Inspirations and Learnings from Global Action on Poverty Event 2019

Inspirations and Learnings from Global Action on Poverty Event 2019

Swati Agarwal 24/02/2019 7

I had an overwhelmingly gratifying kick-off to my new year! I attended the Global Action against Poverty (GAP), a 3-day event held at Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad. I am really grateful to SVP for providing me with the opportunity to attend full program. In my corporate job, I have taken such opportunities for granted. But thankfully, now my lens has changed, for better! I have come back feeling so deeply inspired that I feel I am a different person today than I was last year. As Ms. Meera Shenoy, Founder of Youth4Jobs, who was also a speaker at GAP, rightly said that the mind automatically switches to reflective mode when you are at Gandhi's humble abode, the Sabarmati Ashram.

Sharing this article is my way of giving back to the universe - to the passionate change-makers who are working round the clock in severe conditions and with limited resources at their disposal - to the the communities we depend on for our living and daily chores - to people we deeply love - to the employer who genuinely cares about our personal happiness and professional growth - to the family that has made us who we are today - and to many, many other individuals who have played their little or large role in this journey of life so far!

My purpose of attending this event was to zoom out from my current role - and look at the larger picture. I wanted to rediscover my why of doing what I do, meet some inspiring leaders and change-makers working for social good, explore some opportunities of collaboration, share about the work we do at SVP with larger network etc. And I am really glad that I was able to do most of this in bits and pieces. But now I am not thinking about these items on my agenda at all. I am only thinking about some wonderful people I met - people who are working in remote villages of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu etc with farmers, sex workers, children, educators, and many other stakeholders across various domains of healthcare, elderly care, sanitation, water, mother care, education, livelihoods etc. I want to share three of these stories here which have particularly stuck with me:

  • I met Ms Mehrun Siddhiqui, founder at non-for-profit Adhar, working in Khajuraho with juvenile girls and boys who become victim of forced sex. She shared how at very early age, these kids are given drugs so they lose control on their senses completely. When they are rescued by some NGO and brought to rehabilitation centers, it gets very difficult for these kids to survive without sex and drugs. Mehrun and her team searches for such kids and tries to provide them counseling, care, livelihood trainings (eg beautician, hotel-staff, tailor) etc to help them stand on their feet and live life of dignity.

  • I saw another extremely passionate and wonderful man named George, founder at non-profit Good Samaritans, sharing his story at the "Speakers Corner" during the lunch break. It takes so much courage to speak in an open field full of hundreds of people who are super busy eating their meals and would most likely not hear to you. For a long time, I thought that corner would remain vacant. But then I saw a young man, very lovely and innocent, talking about his work and the seeking for support selflessly. I hope to visit them soon as they are based in Hyderabad. Note -The NGO offers shelter to the abandoned elderly often found on the streets of the city and has rescued more than 400 old citizens since its inception in 2011.

  • I also had the privilege to meet with the team Kat-Katha, a non-for-profit organization working with sex workers and their children in New Delhi. Their vision is to end forced sex. I had heard about their good work a lot within Teach For India community, and had huge respect for their whole team, but meeting them in person and ending up becoming friends with the founder, Ms. Gitanjali Babbar was truly a pleasure. In fact I got her to create her LinkedIn profile there itself and suggested to share about their work on this platform. 

There were also some very interesting sessions by few senior leaders and thinkers, around Systems Thinking, Leadership, Self-discovery and so on. I am sharing my biggest takeaways - some questions to reflect upon and learnings here:

  1. What do I stand for? What is that one thing I most strongly, deeply care about? What is my Theory of Change?

  2. What do others stand for? What are the causes that bother people most? What is my take on those causes? Until you listen, you wouldn't have something new to reflect upon!

  3. What is Poverty? Can it be defined by some metrics alone? Would you agree if I say poverty is lack of capability to lead a life of dignity? Are those people not poor who are indifferent to the tragedies around, earning their bread from wrongful means?

  4. Who is a leader? Being in charge of a department, project makes you a leader? What is your take on - A leader is someone who takes the first step that s/he deeply cares about, in a way that others wish to follow him/her. Can you be a leader and a follower simultaneously? How do you grow leaders in your organization?

  5. If you want to help someone or an NGO, don't try to make them part of your journey or follow you/what you think right/perfect is. Instead you should try to become part of their journey in ways they like to or they think right/perfect is.

In the evening, we visited Seva Cafe, a non-for-profit organization which runs on the concept of "Pay Forward". It was incredible to see this concept in implementation there, and it was one of the most beautiful cafes I have ever been to. When you enter there, they welcome you with "tilak". You eat as much as you want, and you pay as much as you wish or can afford! What I most liked there was a sign board that read,

"Blessed are they who clean up".

Often we forget to thank people who give their services to us. We take them for granted as we think paying is enough. They are truly blessed who clean up our dishes, pick the waste from our doors, grow food in toughest climates and lot more.

I have come back feeling deeply inspired and grateful. These are the experiences that push me to do more and better everyday. Tonnes of thanks to Madan Padaki, co-founder GAP and their whole team for setting this beautiful event up and volunteers for helping run this large scale event so smoothly and seamlessly, and the change makers for doing what they do, and the leaders for guiding, helping on our journeys, and the communities which serve us!

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  • Tony Miller

    God bless you, love the moral of your article

  • Jeff Horstman

    Beautiful message ! Thank you !

  • Luke Young


  • Kieran Allan

    Great reminder that helps us remember to be thankful to people who help us in our daily life.

  • Megan Bridge

    Thanks for putting things in perspective and reminding what is really important

  • Jesse Robinson

    Amazing piece

  • Swati

    Thanks s lot everyone for your kind response.

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Swati Agarwal

Social Development Expert

Swati is the General Manager of Social Venture Partners (SVP) Hyderaad, where she builds powerful partnerships with non-profit organisations to tackle India's most pressing social challenges. SVP is the world's largest network of engaged philanthropists, with over 3,200+ investor-donors across more than 40 cities worldwide. Swati is a Teach For India Fellow - she has taught 100 girls for two years in a slum community in New Delhi. She has previously worked with Hedge Funds for four years as a consultant in New Delhi and New York. Swati holds a bachelor degree in Computer Science from the Institute of Engineering and Rural Technology.


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