What is Goonj?
Mobilizing cloth and repositioning it as an important resource for rural India rather than wastage fit only for charity.
Using urban waste streams as a powerful development resource in rural India, Goonj is dedicated to saving lives, empowering people, and ensuring dignity for the underserved poor in rural India. Through its activities, Goonj helps to create a parallel economy that is not ‘cash based’, but ‘trash based’.
Food, clothing and shelter are well-known basic needs, but international development programming has largely ignored clothing except in disaster scenarios. But once the urgency of disaster relief is over, the problem of the unclothed persists, especially in India. One of the primary causes of annual death in India is from under-clothed people’s exposure to the elements. As well, a woman’s universal need for a piece of cloth as a sanitary pad has forced millions to use sand, ash, jute bags, and husk instead. With an abundance of cloth material being thrown a way, isn’t there a better system for bringing clothing to the poor?
Goonj is using vast quantities of underutilized material lying in urban homes as a powerful resource to address critical rural issues without burdening either the giver or the receiver. While Goonj matches materials with specific needs of local village communities, actual distribution is tied to local communities working on specific development gap areas that are self-identified by the communities.
“For ages old cloth has been associated with charity, but what if it makes people build bridges, dig wells… What if it turns into a tool for bringing about social change where the so-called discard of cities, turns into a key in the hands of rural masses to address their own heterogeneous poverty & quality of life issues across the world?” – Anshu Gupta, Founder and Director, Goonj
Goonj recognizes that underutilized cloth is a precious resource for addressing the basic needs of the poor. It is using this discard as a tool for changing the lives of the poorest in the most remote pockets of India. Goonj is persistent in constructive recycling, reuse of material and involving the masses. The focus is on receiver’s dignity rather than giver’s pride.
“Goonj doesn’t want to grow only as an organization; it wants to grow as an idea… where organizations and individuals across the world take up the work, learning from our experience and help reach the basics of life to people who need it urgently, mindful of their dignity and their needs, not as a charity.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder and Director, Goonj
Goonj, a voluntary organisation working with poor communities and helping preserve the environment by recycling cloth and other waste material was given the ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year India 2012’ award here on Tuesday. The award was given by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister organisation of the World Economic Forum, in partnership with the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation and conferred by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
Goonj featured in a David Bornstein article in the New York Times... "Goonj is bringing efficiency and integrity to work that is often handled carelessly and without consideration for the lasting effects on communities."