Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away”. For 13 years, the passion, gift and purpose of Deepa Pant revolved around the apparel industry. An NIFT graduate, Deepa had a history of working in multiple sectors including merchandise, import-export and also sporting event management. But despite having all the luxuries in her life, the corporate world could not provide her one major thing: purpose. And it was in 2013 when she found her true calling and her true purpose. She witnessed that Delhi had an increasing influx of migrant population arriving with their families in the hope of employment and residing in slum areas.
Though migration is a serious concern, Deepa realised that there is a massive untapped potential in the community. She wondered that if these migrants can be put to good use, it will not only solve the problem of unemployment for them but will also help them build a sustainable venture. With this thought in mind, Deepa Pant gave birth to the ‘Svatanya Foundation’, an organisation which produces various hand-made products by employing underprivileged women. Using the experience she gained through her illustrious career in the apparel industry, Deepa started making a range of products range comprising of soft toys to apparels to accessories to bandanas, which are consequently sold in the market through online portals, market retailers, and corporate sectors. The foundation now has two labels of its own with ‘Amaryn’ for women products and ‘My Munchkin’ for kids and infant products.
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Deepa ensures the money doesn’t get stuck while collaborating with different companies. Finding the right clientele is often her biggest dilemma as she needs to pay the workers regularly whose chances of survival depend on that exact stipend. She uses her vast of experience in 13 years in the apparel industry to find the right orders. While the for-profit work has been finding its feet, Deepa and her team have also dipped their toes into social work as well. They have started to donate brand new handcrafted soft toys and other products to kids, under the umbrella of the foundation. A majority of funding related to this has been through donations by friends, families and well-wishers.
Although the initiative has now settled, it wasn’t all smooth sailing at the beginning. When Deepa first approached women from the community, she was received with massive resistance. Eventually, when they agreed, they were trained by experts from the industry and the team started making baby booties, the first ever Svatanya product. While patriarchy did prove a roadblock, it was swooned away by the charm of earning an honest income and provide for their kids. Based on hearsay, loads of women came forward, initially in hiding but eventually with the support of their family, to work with the organisation. Though initially, the financial remuneration was the main attraction for the women in the community, ‘Svatanya Foundation’, as the name suggests, has provided much more. The word ‘Svatanya’ means freedom in Sanskrit and that is exactly what it has provided to each and every woman working associated with it. Svatanya’s work has left a deep-rooted impact socially and is the finest definition of empowerment. Deepa was amazed to see husbands and father-in-laws dropping women to work and sharing the household work to lessen her burden.
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With the backing of the families and the inspiration to bring more change, the all-women team recently completed a corporate order of 7000 units in a record time of a month. Taking a step ahead, the team is now planning to reach out to 50+ hospitals across India reaching around 5000 kids suffering from cancer and gift them with handcrafted soft toys. According to Deepa, this is a sustainable model with both the for-profit and not-for-profit working alongside each other.
It has been a whirlwind of a few years for Deepa Pant, who has transitioned from the corporate world into the social sector. She proudly exclaims that this is the best team she has ever worked with. Her motivation and happiness towards the work are apparent. She has helped change the lives of hundreds of women for the better and in return, they have changed hers. She has finally found her gift and is now fulfilling her purpose.
CII Foundation’s Woman Exemplar Program recognizes exemplary grassroots women change agents who are working to transform excluded and disadvantaged communities of India in the fields of education, health and micro-enterprise in India. Every year 15 finalists are chosen, and 3 are declared winners, with prizes of Rupees 3 Lakhs to the winners and access to a six-month mentoring and leadership process to all finalists. Click Here to know more.
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