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Whilst completing their fellowships with Teach for India, Gauri Mahendra and Udita Chadha discovered that the difficult living conditions of their students was having a detrimental effect upon their education. Also to support their family’s financial stability children aged 8 to 10 years had started working. This not only negatively impacted their academic growth but also and more importantly their value system.


Immediately Udita and Gauri recognised this as a burning problem and wondered, ‘Can we really provide our kids books before bread?’ After a series of research they concluded that one of the major root causes of this problem is the weak role of the mother in the family. The mothers of these children lived in some of the most oppressive circumstances imaginable.


Inspired to change this, Gauri went to the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajastan to understand what they could do to make a difference. Gauri’s exposure to the Barefoot Community and their village-based approach to solving problems formed the very foundation of Umeed. Meeting with local experts and community organization leaders to understand how quality of life in rural communities is being improved introduced her to ground level understanding of problems and solutions. Her project in the Handicrafts section taught her a lot about successful livelihood initiatives, community mobilization, inter-departmental processes and communication, stock keeping, accounting and marketing.


But what made a world of difference to her were her countless interactions with the people of Tilonia. In an in-depth conversation with Ram Niwas Bhaiya, one of the village folk and a pioneer in puppetry, she recollects discussing about the regressive caste, and gender discrimination system of our country. Even after putting his life towards this cause Ram Niwas bhaiya sighed saying “Sangharsh abhi baaki hai”. His words hit Gauri like a fist of realization.


After a couple of months, the seeds of Umeed were sown and it was launched in Hyderabad in August 2014, with an aim of inspiring breakthroughs in the way the world treats women and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.


At Umeed, our beneficiaries, women from low-income communities are trained to make simple, beautiful, and eco-friendly newspaper handicrafts. These then undergo stringent quality checks. After successful checks, the products are put on sale by way of setting up exhibitions at popular events, organizations, corporate houses, and community spaces. (Follow us on facebook to know more about our upcoming exhibitions)


We are also gradually building our presence at retail outlets where the reach of our products would increase manifold.


While adapted to meet local challenges, our work has at its foundation these three essential elements: Skill Building Values & Mindsets, and Exposure (Learn more here)

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