HELPING THE POOR - WHERE DO YOU START? For me, it was an easy decision. I wanted to go back to the country where this all started – India. I’ve never been one for getting excited about birthdays, but I felt it important to make my first birthday after the charity was established more meaningful. It also happened to be a big birthday milestone…J I took a flight to Mumbai with the aim of finding some of the Shakti women whose perspectives were pivotal to my master’s research. My 2015 experiences in the villages of Maharashtra influenced me more than I realized at the time. So, back into the mayhem of Mumbai, I rounded up the troops, so to speak. Former colleague Bosco Menezes offered to come along and snap some pictures, and Akash Mahadik was again helping with the Marathi interpreting. On this occasion, we made sure we had a driver who knew his way into the Pune region. The guy last time took us to the wrong village, which turned out to be a 6-hour drive from our intended destination. I wanted to let the Shakti women know that I hadn’t forgotten about them and that the research they’d kindly contributed towards had been developed into a book. I also wanted to share the news that I’d formed a charity to help people in developing countries set up tiny businesses, just like they had. My initial idea was to ask one of the more senior Shakti women what she thought about The Road to Parity funding a new Shakti woman, as one of its first initiatives to bring the whole story full circle. To my surprise, she gave a lukewarm response. She explained the situation in that part of the countryside had changed and Project Shakti was less relevant. The main factor was there were more shops and this was undermining their independent enterprises selling household goods to friends and family. It works a bit like the “Avon Ladies.” I asked Akash to make sure the woman knew I’d come from England to get her opinion. She smiled.
Jonathan Hill is the Founder and Chairman of The Road to Parity.