‘Partnerships and innovation are critical drivers towards an equitable society’

Updated on Dec 28, 2022 06:09 PM IST

The Hans Foundation was established in 2009 to improve the lives of underprivileged communities. Shweta Rawat, Founder and Chairperson, speaks about the current initiatives of the foundation, how education and healthcare are emerging as the key priority areas, and the roadmap for the future

Shweta Rawat, Founder and Chairperson, The Hans Foundation
Shweta Rawat, Founder and Chairperson, The Hans Foundation
ByHT Brand Studio

The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the social, economic and healthcare fabric of the country as millions of Indians lost their jobs, and several more were rendered homeless. Almost three years hence, the social sector has played a pivotal role in restoring normalcy and has emerged as the backbone of our society.

In a country as vast and diverse as ours, civil society and non-government organisations helped to extend the reach of reform programs to the remotest parts of the country. One such organisation – The Hans Foundation (THF) – stands out like a shining star for its contribution to support development at the grassroot level and improve the lives of underprivileged communities in rural India.

Ms. Shweta Rawat, Founder and Chairperson, The Hans Foundation shares her thoughts about how education and healthcare are emerging as the top priority areas for philanthropy post pandemic, the current initiatives of THF and the roadmap for the future.

THF's role in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic turned the table upside down for everyone. "When the pandemic first struck in 2020, disaster relief and emergency responses became the need of hour, being at the forefront of relief work and disaster relief, we worked hand-in-hand with almost 30 grassroots partners across the country to provide needed and emergency support to various vulnerable communities that we had been working with on other projects. Since then, oxygen plants have been set up in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Nagaland in collaboration with the respective state governments, which have been essential not only for the response to the pandemic but as part of strengthening the permanent public healthcare infrastructure” said Rawat.

As per Rawat, THF along with the government helped set up quarantine centres that could accommodate up to 10,000 people in Uttarakhand. Besides this, the foundation assisted the local administration in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Odisha to ensure that oxygen concentrators, medical bedding sets and flowmeters were available where needed at the peak of the crisis, she added. “The other big thing that also happened in the last couple of years was that the Government of India changed the rules for the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act in late 2020. This was a boon in disguise, allowing The Hans Foundation to enter a new phase of its journey, from being a Foundation that worked mostly through partnerships to implement projects and create value for the communities we worked for, to direct implementation in the field”.

THF initiatives in India

In the wake of pandemic, it became clear that working with various governments to strengthen the public health infrastructure was the need of the hour.

With the vision to support people to exercise their right to access healthcare, presently, THF’s signature programs include the Hans Medical Mobile Units, which provide mobile Primary Health Care in Rural Areas, Hans Renal Care Centres, which provide free dialysis support at district and zonal levels of healthcare, and our Cochlear Implants and Little Hearts programs, which provide surgical and post-surgical support to children born with congenital hearing impairment and congenital heart defects, respectively.

In addition to these health and wellbeing projects, livelihood generation and women empowerment as a model can also do great things for holistic social transformation if supported through philanthropic interventions. Keeping this in mind, we have been working with the Government of Uttarakhand on the Himadri Hans Handlooms project, which works with women weavers of Uttarakhand to provide livelihood while also preserving the cultural heritage and crafts of the Kumaon region and empower women.” Rawat added.

THF's priority areas

In first 12 years of existence, THF gained experience working across 26 states in India, through partnerships with more than 150 organisations. "As we started working on self-implementation projects, our personal field presence has also expanded from Delhi-NCR, Uttarakhand and Nagaland to Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Assam as well, with the Mobile Medical Units program leading the way in establishing our presence in the field. Our Cochlear Implant and Little Hearts Program has also been rapidly expanding, working with hospitals in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Gurugram, Hyderabad, and Kolkata," Rawat said.

Emerging Trends in Philanthropy

The role of private philanthropy has become pivotal for the all-round development of the society. "Contribution from domestic philanthropists including corporations and individuals has grown at a steady pace of 8 to 10 per cent yearly with an increase in CSR contributions. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, CSOs and NGOs have faced a shortage of funds. Supporting CSOs, NGOs and organisations working at the grassroot level has gained a lot of prominence, along with community engagement," Rawat said. "Education and healthcare have emerged as the top priority sectors for philanthropy and rightfully so as the pandemic highlighted the infrastructural gaps and accessibility issues in these sectors."

Philanthropists are becoming more impact-driven and setting clear goals based on evidence and data. Collaborative models and public-private partnerships have also seen a huge rise. "The climate crisis that we are facing today calls for urgent action. Several organisations and individuals at the grassroots level are working with communities to build climate resilience," Rawat added.

Internationally, this is becoming an area for increased philanthropic spending. In India domestic philanthropy can play a vital role in helping build the capacity of local agencies to respond to the ongoing climate crisis as they are uniquely placed to support communities and individuals, and often already working in frontline areas affected by climate change. The impact of climate change is cross-sectoral ranging from health to gender equality. Therefore solutions to these can be easily aligned with the ongoing work of several philanthropic institutions in the country.

How was THF conceived?

Rawat said: "It was a casual discussion around 2004-2005, between me, my parents and Mr Manoj Bhargava, the primary funder of the foundation, that gave birth to the foundation. We were all passionate about making an impact on development in India and started out with three pillars to work on – Education, Healthcare and Disability Rights."

Our vision was to empower marginalised and underprivileged communities across India so that everyone in India no matter their gender, religion, caste, financial or physical ability, has the right to access health care, a right to access education, and in case of disability, the right to those services that give you a better quality of life, she added. "As we have grown over the last 13 years, our understanding of the complexities of this space and new areas where Hans can be impactful has also grown. To reflect this, we added Livelihood and Climate Action to our arenas of intervention."

THF's Roadmap for the Future

As per Rawat, The Hans Foundation wants to continue to expand its reach and interventions. The idea is that THF can be instrumental in India’s journey of development, ensuring that it stays aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and every Indian has access to basic needs that are essential to lead a whole and healthy life, she added

"Since we started the Mobile Medical Units program in early 2021, we have already crossed 150 vans in operation across 5 states in India and we hope that number will continue to increase. We also want to take our Cochlear Implant and Little Hearts programs – where we work in partnership with leading hospitals across the country – to many more cities, so that every child in need can be helped."

"Mental health, disability rights and climate action are topics which are very close to my heart, and we have also recently started piloting some innovative projects under these larger themes that I hope can go the distance and be scaled up and replicated soon," she said.

These projects include Hans Wellness Centres which provide both physical and mental health care and counselling in schools for children from underprivileged sections of society. There is also an innovative pilot in the works that will use mobile clinics for early identification and intervention for disabled people, in partnership with National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (NIEPID).

"It is important to invest in improving life outcomes through sustained efforts. Partnerships with corporates, as well as other CSOs, NGOs and philanthropic organisations, are critical in amplifying the scale of social transformation programs implemented by any social sector organisations including The Hans Foundation and in achieving the SDGs of India. Social transformation is a long process, and we must keep evaluating and innovating to help create a just and equitable society for all."

Disclaimer: This article is a promotional feature and does not have journalistic/editorial involvement of Hindustan Times. Hindustan Times shall not in any manner, be responsible and/or liable in any manner whatsoever for all that is stated in the article and/or also with regard to the view(s), opinion(s), announcement(s), declaration(s), affirmation(s) etc., stated/featured in the same.

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