Mallika Ghosh, who stands at the helm of Parinaam, has emerged, through years of dedication, as a crusader for the downtrodden.
Conceived, conceptualized and set-up in 2006, Parinaam is not-for-profit organisation that aims to help and support the urban poor. "We aim at providing holistic support to underprivileged women in particular and help them strive toward a better life," said Mallika, who is always on her toes, so to speak, juggling between taking care of her baby and seeing to the many women who have, over the years, grown to rely on her.
Raised in a family of socially conscious bankers,, her foray into social work doesn't come as too much of a surprise. Her mother, Elaine Ghosh, was the founder of Parinaam, which works slum-dwellers in cities. "My parents were the driving forces behind the Parinaam Foundation," said Mallika. It began when her parents, Samit and Elaine Ghosh, set up Ujjivan, a micro-credit institution that dealt exclusively with the urban poor.
My mother was the reason Parinam happened," Mallika added. "She was my inspiration, guide, teacher and my idol." The two organisations function side by side, for as Mallika - and her mother before her - discovered, monetary support will only take one so far on the road to empowerment, one of the reasons that led to the founding of Parinaam in 2006.
They started out with the idea of organising healthcare camps for the underprivileged. A few hundred camps later, however, the issues they found were simply too big to ignore. The foundation was allowed to grow organically and two major programmes began to take shape. THe first, Diksha, was a financial literacy programme, the only one in the country that caters to the urban poor. The other, the Urban Ultra Poor Ptrogramme, dealt only with the poorest of the poor, the underbelly of the demographic, who survive off make-shift homes and daily earnings.
The two organisations continue to function side by side, with Ujjivan providing financial support and Parinaam ensuring a more holistic experience. "Money is just one part of it," said Mallika. "Merely handing out loans does not alleviate their situation, not for long, atleast. They need to know that there is support, guidance and care available to them, that they can be independent too. And that is our agenda."
Parinaam and Ujjivan have contributed to the education of around 4,50,000 children across the city and have helped open over a 1,00,000 bank accounts. They run tuition centres within city slums, where children can come after school to brush up on their lessons and get a healthy snack as well. Many of these children have gone on to study at mainstream schools across Bengaluru. "We also hold programmes to educate poor and illiterate women on banking mechanisms," Mallika added, a touch of pride in her voice.
It's a busy life and not without its challenges, but Mallika says the immense pride and happiness she feels when she looks back on the journey makes it all worth it. "Seeing kids' grades and attendance rates hit the roof gives us a feeling of accomplishment. I became a mother recently too, which gave me a new sense of empathy for the people I work with," she remarked. She drew inspiration from this too and has set up a crèche on their office premises to cater to the five working mothers they have on board.
2016 was a positive year for Mallika, who says, "Our tight-knit group of people has evolved into a strong team." They scaled up existing programmes, Ujjivan is all set to be a full-fledged bank and there are many new initiatives waiting in the pipeline. She adds, with a touch of optimism, "No matter what, though, there is always time to make a change and do good unto one another."