India is a country of extremes: there has been massive growth in the number and wealth of billionaires in India since the economic liberalization measures in 1991 and at the same time there are more poor people living in eight Indian states than in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. As the wealth in the country is rapidly growing, there is also a growing consciousness that wealth should be shared with the less fortunate. The government now has passed a bill that mandates a philanthropic approach to corporate social responsibility defined as spending 2% of net profit on social welfare. This will give a boost to corporate spending on CSR, although many corporates are already involved in projects that support the local Indian community.
Last week I went on fact-finding mission with Rupa Girish in Mumbai and Ronald van het Hof in Delhi. To get a better idea of the funding opportunities for Women on Wings in India, we visited Dutch and Indian corporates and institutions. Women empowerment is high on the agenda of most parties involved in India. There are different ways of a achieving this. It can be bottom up: training women and setting up small-scale businesses. Or top down like we do: accelerating growth of existing social companies and thus creating jobs for women. Our counterparts were very interested in the business model of Women on Wings. There are abundant opportunities to work together in public private partnerships; the challenge is to connect the dots.
Fund raising in India will probably be the same as the traffic: It takes time, requires patience, sometimes taking a u-turn is faster than continuing the road, and when we think we are really stuck there always appears to be a solution. Things will definitely be different than what we expected in the first place, but in the end we will reach our destination: 1 million jobs for women in rural India.
Martha van Dijk