CII Foundation


Woman Exemplar Program

Celebrating The New Nation Builders


Munni Begam
Location: Juanpur, Uttar Pradesh
Organisation:Nari Chetna Foundation
EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH EDUCATION: Born into a family of farm laborers, Munni was married at the age of 12 and schooled herself by writing with coal on waste paper discarded by her neighbors. She is today a leading advocate for women’s functional literacy, campaigner for women’s education and advisor to the Gram Panchayat. This ‘Malala of Eastern UP’ has transformed the lives of 5,770 illiterate rural women through functional literacy classes and organized them in collectives to access government schemes and entitlements.

Nita Dhar
Location: Alipurduar, West Bengal
A MOVEMENT OF GREEN WARRIORS: Nita Dhar zips through the elephant corridor of North Bengal, maneuvering her motorbike across hairpin bends. She once fobbed off a leopard attack on these tracks!
Nita has channeled this fearlessness to build a movement of young changemakers in North Bengal’s forested tribal belt and impoverished tea gardens. She has mentored 2,900 youth, adolescents and women 'green scouts' who design and roll out ideas to free their villages of deforestation, trafficking and health challenges.

Arshi Fatma
Location: Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh
Organisation:Grameen Vikas Sansthan
STANDING UP FOR GIRLS: A survivor of domestic violence and financial crisis, Arshi Fatma has launched a movement against early marriage and trafficking in deep, interior pockets of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Through life skills and vocational trainings, she is encouraging 5,000 vulnerable girls to stay in school, delay their marriage, and prepare for viable livelihoods. Arshi has also galvanized 13,000 SHG members as education advocates and trained 250 women to take up leadership roles in the government to create a conducive policy environment for girls’ education.

Moni Kannaujia
Location: Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Organisation:Study Hall Education Foundation-Digital Study Hall
WHEN WOMEN TAKE CHARGE OF TECHNOLOGY: Daughter of a Dhobi, Moni Kannaujia funded her education by working as a domestic help. She has channeled her passion for the camera to lead a first-of-its-kind technology-and-media education initiative. Moni and her team at Digital Study Hall have produced more than 2,000 videos of classroom sessions conducted by model teachers on joyful learning and gender empowerment. Uploaded on YouTube and distributed offline, these films have impacted 100,000 teachers and girls of government schools across Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Moni is also creating video-based learning content for the UP state government and the MHRD.

Nasreen Meetai
Location: Hospet, Karnataka
Organisation:CHAMPIONING INCLUSIVE EDUCATION: Daughter of a sugarcane vendor, Nasreen Meetai has ignited a movement for education and empowerment among girls of the poorest Muslim, Dalit, Devdasi, and Maadiga communities of North Karnataka. She has organized 854 children and young women in civic action and advocacy groups, where they experience selftransformation and access scholarships, tuition, and counseling supports to pursue higher education. These groups have built their agency and voice to play a key advocacy role against Triple Talaq and other discriminatory religious practices.

Srija Chakraborty
Location: Kolkata, West Bengal
PUTTING MENTAL HEALTH FIRST: Poverty + Mental illness + Homosexuality : The triple burden of stigma and exclusion drove Srija to find her life's mission. Starting as a volunteer in a LBT (Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) group, Srija went on to start and scale Janamanas - a nationally-recognized community mental health program in deprived municipal wards and Panchayats of West Bengal. Working with Anjali (a mental health and human rights organization), Srija is building a movement of barefoot, community women mental health counsellors in partnership with the government. The result: 4000 persons impacted and 300,000 individuals reached through dialogues for breaking the stigma around mental health.

Location: Bengaluru, Karnataka
PROMOTING HEALH THROUGH NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS: Gowramma’s world crashed with the news that her husband was HIV positive. But she pivoted quickly to convert this adversity into an opportunity for entrepreneurship. Unable to afford the nutritional supplements that her husband required, Gowramma developed and produced an affordable alternative- Samruddhi, a FSSAI certified supplement. Distributed through NGOs, hospitals, and clinics, Samruddhi has revived 5,500 individuals back to health. The product has earned a cumulative seven-year turnover of Rs. 25,60,800.

Location: Ajmer, Rajasthan
LEADING A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV: Married at the age of 9, a daily wage laborer at the age of 11, and widowed by AIDS at the age of 15, Asha Jaat founded Saksham, the Ajmer chapter of the Positive Women’s Network. Saksham opens up access to government health services and welfare schemes for people living with HIV. Working in Nasirabad, Rajasthan’s most high-prevalence HIV belt, Saksham has ensured de-stigmatized counseling, free treatment, and nutritional supplements to 6,011 women, children and men living with HIV. She has also opened up livelihood opportunities for 50 women survivors of HIV.

Deepa Pawar
Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Organisation:Anubhuti Charitable Trust
TRANSFORMING YOUTH INTO LEADERS: Born into a family of iron smiths, Deepa Pawar won over poverty, abuse, early marriage, domestic violence and work place discrimination to emerge as a youth change agent. Her organization is building transformative youth leaders, youth organizations and youth networks that are led by Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim men and women. They are mentored to galvanize local governments and communities on issues of sexual health, gender rights, mental health and wellness. Deepa’s work has directly impacted 15,800 youth leaders and their communities. More than four youth groups nurtured by her have evolved into formal organizations, in turn impacting 15,000 women and children.

Hajera Unnisa
Location: Hyderabad, Telangana
Organisation:My Choices Foundation
PUTTING AN END TO ABUSE: Growing up with abuse, violence and poverty, Hajera Unnisa is working to end domestic violence and child sex abuse in the poorest pockets of Hyderabad, dominated by religious conservatism. Hajera and her team of ‘peacemakers’ are opening up safe spaces in bastis for women and children to access psychological and legal relief. Awareness sessions, counseling and legal redressal have given courage to 1,382 women and 4,593 children to break their silence around abuse and take urgent action.

Eliza Boro
Location: Sonitpur, Assam
Organisation:Mahila Shakti Kendra (MASK)
PIONEERING ASSAM’S SHG MOVEMENT: Financial independence from a micro enterprise enabled Eliza Boro to overcome domestic violence. With this conviction, she grew from being a self-help group (SHG) member to leading an organization that pioneered the SHG movement in Assam. Her organization, Mahila Shakti Kendra (MASK), has impacted 2,550 women and their families through SHGs, micro entrepreneurship, animal husbandry and other allied activities, ending indebtedness and stemming forced migration. By engaging women from all ethnic and linguistic groups in livelihood generation, MASK has broken the isolation and strengthened the unity between diverse tribes

Vechulou Kanuo
Location: Phek, Nagaland
Organisation:Chakhesang Women’s Welfare Society
CREATING LIVELIHOODS: Vechulou Kanuo grew up in an isolated village on the Indo-Burmese border, managing farm work and domestic chores. Her capacity for back-breaking work enabled her to transform a bankrupt organization to one of the most successful livelihoods ventures in the state. Vechulou has introduced modern agriculture and animal husbandry to 10,586 women, farmers and youth, seeding thousands of small entrepreneurs in the deep rural interiors of Nagaland. The only woman to be invited to traditional Naga tribal council meetings, Vechulou represents the voice of Naga women in the state.

Nancy Pushpam
Location: Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu
Organisation:: Vizhuthukal Trust
ROAD TO FREEDOM: Daughter of a dalit village school headmaster and one of eight siblings, Nancy embraced education as her road to freedom. She has since locked horns with caste and gender-based violence and countered severe backlash and threats. Nancy runs Vizhuthukal Trust (VT) - a non-profit that has organized 11,980 ultra-poor dalit women and children into SHGs, domestic workers unions and children's collectives. More than 4500 Dalit women entrepreneurs have been incubated and micro-credit linkages of up to 3 crores unlocked for them. Powered by an all-dalit women Board, Nancy and her team are providing survival supports to elderly dalit house helps who are abandoned and too emaciated to fend for themselves.

Sumitra Shiral
Location: Osmanabad, Maharashtra
Organisation:Jiyo Green
BAREFOOT BUSINESS COACH: At 15, Sumitra Shiral was abandoned and left penniless by her husband. Today she is a master at seeding and strengthening grassroots ventures. Working in the droughtaffected areas of Osmanabad, Sumitra has organized 3,000 women into SHGs with an asset pool of Rs. 5.3 crores. Owner of two businesses and a producer company, this barefoot business coach has also mentored 2,000 women entrepreneurs, of which 700 are running successful businesses with annual income increases of more than 40 percent.

Sangita Tumade
Location: Gadchiroli, Maharashtra
Organisation:Amhi Amchya Arogyasathi
CHANGING THE LIVES OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES: Sangita Tumade fought against the stigma of Leukoderma by setting up a livelihoods ecosystem for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). Working in 132 villages, she has organized 954 PwDs in Peer Support Groups and Self Help Groups and encouraged savings, access to social security, and small business ownership among them. Through entrepreneurship trainings and market linkages, 50 PwDs have launched their own ventures. By bringing home annual incomes of Rs. 60,000, they have upended the conventional understanding of ‘ability’ in this backward region.


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