By Yashashree Gurjar
The Avantha Foundation is a not for profit organisation. The Avantha Foundation has been established with the objective of making a sustained impact on the quality of life of communities by pioneering key development initiatives that are of national concern. The Avantha Foundation seeks to bring about systemic changes within identified issues through strategic interventions and support to long-term projects and multi-sector partnerships.
The Avantha Foundation partners with a broad range of stakeholders including government, multilateral agencies and NGOs to implement action programmes to create long term impacts and lead to policy level changes in favour of the disadvantaged communities.
The Avantha Foundation currently focusses on two areas. Health and Democratic Governance. As hunger and malnutrition are major challenges facing India today, The Avantha Foundation has pioneered the HUNGaMA (HUNGer and MAlnutrition) initiative to demonstrate significant reduction in child malnutrition through targeted advocacy and concrete sustainable solutions that would to mitigate malnutrition during the first 1000 days of a child’s life.
The Avantha Foundation is also working to strengthen democratic governance in local bodies by strengthening capacities of elected representatives, and by highlighting best practices that could be replicated. The Avantha Foundation plans to broaden its agenda in the coming years to include other key issues and several levels of institutions and action research.
At the Avantha Group, CSR is linked to the way they conduct the business. The Avantha Group believes that business sustainability is closely connected to the sustainable development of the communities we live and work with and the environment in which operate. CSR is planned as a long term intervention taking into account people’s aspirations and expectations. All projects are centred on Sustainable Development and implemented through thematic areas such as Livelihood Creation, Education, Health, Management of Natural Resources & the Preservation of the Environment.
Livelihood interventions are implemented at the farm level for communities that are predominantly agrarian and through vocational education and skill building for youth to give them access to better job markets. Some of our successes are in the area of improved agricultural practices, animal husbandry and poultry that substantially augment incomes of farmers and take them from subsistence to surplus. Youth are trained for new age jobs in the service sector and in technical training at the Industrial Training Institutes.
The Avantha CSR programmes have brought women, who have traditionally been neglected and excluded from the development process, into the centre stage of the decision-making and made them agents of change in their own communities. Formation of Self Help Groups, helping a large number of women to gain financial independence through micro enterprise ventures has been the key highlight.
Education for the Underprivileged
Education is a critical component of any development programme. Avantha’s CSR programmes focus on the improving the levels of learning in children between 6 to 14 years old. This is done through bridge programmes that get children back into schools, remedial education programmes that prevent children from dropping out and Libraries that encourage children to read and retain their interest in education. In addition the group companies run some innovative programmes like the ‘Mobile Computer Literacy’ programme that delivers computer education through busses to school in far flung areas and the ‘Lab in a Box’ program that encourages science learning in schools that do not have access to science laboratories.
Community-Based Health Intervention
Avantha’s CSR collaborative health intervention programme involves both awareness and prevention. These projects help augment government medical services at the grass-roots through village health workers. A focus on Maternal and Child health issues has ensured that this critical issue is addressed at the right time. The availability of health providers at the doorstep gives timely help to communities on their minor health issues and better awareness regarding diseases and their prevention. Thematic health camps are held regularly for communities.
The HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programme covers employees, their families, community members and high-risk groups such as truckers and transporters who work with the group companies. The HIV/AIDS awareness programme has reached over 200,000 people at the workplace and in the communities. Around 400 employees and over 500 community volunteers are actively involved in spreading awareness about the disease. The group runs two ART centres that cater to the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS in ‘Public Private Partnership’ with NACO which is the apex government body set up for prevention and control of the disease.
Natural Resources Management & Preservation of Environment
Responsiveness towards a cleaner and safer environment is an important commitment that includes ensuring proper management and regeneration of water, waste management & preservation and conservation of rainforests.
Support to Infrastructure
Availability of adequate infrastructure is key to the holistic development of an area. The group companies support infrastructure as per the needs of the communities. Construction of schools and health centres, deepening of village ponds and building check dams, drinking water tanks and pipelines and in some areas the construction of village roads and street lighting are some of the examples of the support we have given so far.
(Yashashree Gurjar is the head at Avantha Foundation)
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