Gramin VigyanNiketan

The Poor are Self Sustaining | Neelima Mishra

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In 2011 the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation recognized Neelima as an emerging leader for her zeal in working with self help groups across Maharashtra to give the poorest of the poor not just access to micro-credit but also the means to collectively improve their lives by creating better income opportunities.

Listen to this podcast interview with one of the emerging community leaders from India- Neelima Mishra. Speaking to Shivraj Prasad, she shares her belief that it isn’t government handouts or charity that sustains the poor, but timely access to finance.

Her message to young entrepreneurs is clear – continue to innovate with new ideas to create sustainable businesses and development.

Co-create for Sustainability

Khemka Forum Podcast Series: Transcript of the podcast with Neelima Mishra

Interviewer: Shivraj Prasad, The PRactice



Shivraj: Neelima Mishra, thank very you so much for speaking to the Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

Neelima: Thank you.

Shivraj: Neelima, how has the Magsasay Award really changed the public perception of what you really do at Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan ?

Neelima: I feel we were working very quietly, without any expectation of recognition but now the society knows about BNGV and the media has also now given good publicity to our work. But that has not helped us to a great extent in generating funds for the work and all. The people in the vicinity know about the recognition so more people are now coming to ask for help. It is said that good work always catches the eyes of good donors. Many times it happens that most people are more eager to give to charity and we are not doing any charity work. We are helping people to help themselves. We are trying to make them more accountable to their own lives by paying every single rupee we are giving them so that the funded money can go help more people in need.

Shivraj: And Neelima, I know you made a statement you donated the prize money as well, didn’t you? so how do practitioners most effectively partner with institutions of higher education to achieve social change?

Neelima: That’s true, that’s true

Shivraj: So Neelima , in the citation of the award you were seen somewhat as a champion of self sustaining businesses. You said we must work without dependency on government handouts. What would you say to young social entrepreneurs who are starting out and struggling to find their feet in this sector?

Neelima: First of all, they must come up with some innovative ideas and have a strong conviction in what they are doing. Secondly, they should have great faith in themselves. First that and the team that they are working with, because as they go along any failure they come across, it is wise to learn from them, accept and move on with better solutions. Finally, success is yours and if you choose the objective of your enterprise and go after it, ultimately it is of your choosing.

Shivraj: And can you make a difference with the poor and still sustain a profitable model?

Neelima: As I mentioned earlier, we are not doing any kind of charity. The poor also has some self respect. We are fortunate to meet people who are ready to take loan and ready to repay in time. According to poor, money given to them, in time, is worthy. They come up with demand one after the other, but it is not for their personal gain but the urge to improve their economies together. They want to give better lives to their families, they want to improve their farming they want to create better income and facilities. So our model is profitable, we give loan and we get them back with proper social charges or service charges you can say. That too in time. And again we give the funded money to other poor and the circle goes on.

Shivraj: And finally what do you see as the next big challenge because there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there in this sector trying to make a change, where do you plan to go with your life’s work now that you have been awarded, you have been recognised and people are talking about you?

Neelima: We face challenges everyday and we would like to make our village a model village(inaudible bit). We are ready to face our failures and bring new solutions to it and if we succeed we would like to replicate the model in other villages and in states across India. We would like to work on development and conflict but the biggest hurdle is pressure of arranging the source of funds for the existing projects. But I am sure with our faith and the supporters we have today we will be able to handle these challenges.

Shivraj: When you were awarded the Magsaysay award a lot of international watchers said that perhaps you could replicate this model. How about, are you looking to replicate this model across India?

Neelima: Yes yes, what we have seen the question is that the same situation is everywhere and we say perhaps this model will improve the situation. So we think we will look at the ambit of the work and explore how we can take it across India.

Shivraj: Thank you Neelima, finally what words do you have for young entrepreneurs listening to this?

Neelima: You know there are alot things left to do for our country and I think everything has to be sustainable, we should look at Gandhi’s concept. We can do a lot of learning from him on development work.

Shivraj: Neelima Mishra thank you so much for speaking to the Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

Neelima: Thank you very much, thank you.


Views expressed here are solely that of the person interviewed and may not represent the views of The Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation.