Many women in India are making a difference, whether they are wealthy philanthropists giving away large portions of their fortunes to various causes or activists using their voice and creativity to advocate for matters they care about. Three of these female changemakers in India include Garvita Gulhati, Priti Adani and Daya Bai, who each stand as an example of individuals who are steadfast in their charitable ambitions.
Among the many notable women in India is Garvita Gulhati. Distressed over the fact that restaurant customers wasted 14 million liters worth of semi-drunk glasses of water, Gulhati, at the age of 15, founded Why Waste?, a youth-driven organization focused on preserving water in India and beyond. Why Waste?’s efforts include educating people on water conservation and motivating individuals to become advocates of the cause, connecting with volunteers globally to extend efforts internationally and creating simple solutions to resolve intricate issues, among other objectives.
Through the initiative #GlassHalfFull, Gulhati collaborated with restaurant owners to encourage waiters to only fill water glasses halfway. This movement led to less water wastage and savings for restaurants. In fact, Gulhati and the team at Why Waste? have reached 500,000 restaurants as a result of their collaboration with the National Restaurants Association of India. These efforts have preserved more than 10 million liters of water.
Why Waste? has grown to include an application, a nonprofit book called “The Sustainability Stories” and a video series with UNICEF. Among her accomplishments, Gulhati joined Ashoka, “a global network of social entrepreneurs,” to establish the Lead Young program across schools in India. Through this initiative, she empowered 2.5 million learners with the knowledge and inspiration to become India’s next changemakers.
On the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia-Pacific list of Social Entrepreneurs, Gulhati was the youngest person to receive recognition. Gulhati also stood as one of 17 Youth Climate Leaders at the Climate Change Conference (COP26). She also participates in efforts regarding UNICEF’s youth climate strategy. At only 21 years old, Gulhati is one of the female changemakers in India working to protect the world’s water.
The current chairperson of the Adani Foundation, Priti Adani, is also the wife of Gautam Adani, the founder and chairman of the Adani Group. As chairperson of the Adani Foundation, Priti Adani is determined to help the disadvantaged.
The Adani Foundation, with the aim of creating lasting results throughout India, has dedicated itself to making “strategic social investments” in India since 1996. Having a unit of “670 full-time and 600 part-time professionals,” the Adani Foundation’s influence is broad. Presently, the organization impacts 7.6 million individuals and works in 5,675 villages across 19 Indian states.
The Adani Foundation works to provide communities with “education, health, sustainable livelihood, skill development and community infrastructure,” its website says. Priti Adani, through the Adani Foundation, has created four main programs to reach these objectives. The Saksham initiative works to advance skills development while SuPoshan seeks to treat and prevent malnutrition/anemia. Additionally, the Udaan initiative centers around education and the program Swachhagraha prioritizes cleanliness.
SuPoshan aims to address malnutrition among vulnerable groups, including young children and pregnant women, The SuPoshan initiative trains village health volunteers, also known as SuPoshan Sanginis, to visit homes. The Sanginis activities include “spreading awareness, referrals and promoting behavioral change among the target groups to achieve the project objectives,” the Adani Foundation website says. Currently, 418 Sanginis are servicing 239,211 households and almost 35,000 undernourished children are now in better health.
Daya Bai, originally named Mercy Matthew, was born in Kerala, India, and grew up in a wealthy Christian family. Initially, Daya Bai wanted to become a nun, but after she observed the struggles Indian tribal people faced, including the lack of education and health care, she dedicated herself to uplifting and empowering them.
Daya Bai has offered services to each and every village she has visited. Depending on the needs of each village, she would give medical, educational and political assistance. With a strong belief that education may support individuals in living better lives, Daya Bai has coordinated non-violent protests and other operations to push authorities to open up schools for tribal people. She also set up a school in Barul Village.
At age 81, in October 2022, Daya Bai’s endeavors included a hunger strike that commenced after the banned pesticide endosulfan was sprayed into the air, killing more than 500 people in Kasaragod district, Kerala, and injuring 6,728 others.
The hunger strike lasted 17 days and ended only after she was handed a written pledge from the government conceding to her demands. These demands included that the government gives the best possible treatment to the endosulfan victims.
Resolutely, Daya Bai has worked to preserve the traditions and principles of the communities she supports. Often, Daya Bai gives speeches to uplift people, which has earned her even more appreciation. In 2007, Daya Bai received the Vanitha Woman Of The Year award, and in 2012, she received the Good Samaritan National Award. Daya Bai has fought for meaningful causes for many years, and at the age of 82, she is as tenacious as ever.
Garvita Gulhati, Priti Adani and Daya Bai, in their own distinct ways, are three female changemakers in India contributing to beneficial causes. Their inspiring efforts, with support, have the potential to give rise to even more progress, in India and beyond.
– Megan Roush