For any country, regardless of its socio and economic development, one of the key indicators of success is social equity. In India, this is more of a necessity. As the world’s fastest-growing economy we are currently living in a paradox. Fast-paced economic growth coexists with acute social and economic issues among the disadvantaged communities.
While the country is focused on the growth rate of country’s GDP, a large section of the society is deprived of their basic socio-economic rights. The disadvantaged communities – Women, children, disabled, LGBT, Dalits lie at the epicentre of social and economic inequality in our country. Throughout our series #economyforall, we have touched upon the severity of this problem and how social entrepreneurs can play a crucial role in bridging this gap.
“Creation of entrepreneurship and for-profit social entrepreneurship can help the disadvantaged community in lifting up their economic conditions and take charge of their lives. Anything which can create more jobs and opportunities is good.” – Dr. Anant Sardeshmukh, Director General of MCCIA
Excluded groups are disadvantaged in many ways. They are victims of prejudice, are ignored, and are often treated as less than human beings by the village elite and government officials. They live in remote hamlets and are thus geographically separated from the centres of delivery.
Their hamlets are scattered so the cost of reaching them is higher. Finally, it is their extreme poverty that prevents the disadvantaged communities from taking advantage of government schemes, whether it is free schooling (children are withdrawn because their labour is needed at home or for work), or immunisation (they migrate along with their parents and, therefore, not present in the village when the health worker visits) or free fuel.
SDG as a Vision Guide
Sustainable development goals or SDGs are the most comprehensive universal goals undertaken by 193 Heads of state to achieve environmental, social and economic development in their respective countries through a set of 232 targets. They represent an extensive and consensual global effort that has gone into making a vision for a better world, to be achieved by 2030.
Sustainable Development Goals and their subgoals serve as a guideline to design the right impact solution.
For instance, Goal 1.4 prescribes,
By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular, the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.
This goal highlights the basic level problems that are currently coming in the way of their development. Addressing economic inequality will have a multiplier effect leading to the eventual demise of social evils, discrimination, and reduction in social unrest. It will make way for a more inclusive society for the disadvantaged community. Economic prosperity coupled with democracy makes a society more aware of its problems, open to diverse points of view and ultimately challenge the status quo.
Goal 10.2 states,
By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.
And, Goal 16.7 states,
Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.
Does this mean that one must device separate solutions that address one or more goals individually?
If you observe, Goal 1.4, Goal 10.2 and Goal 16.7 although they belong to different categories of SDGs (Poverty and Education) they converge at the same point – equal opportunities to the disadvantaged communities.
Sustainable Development Goals, although divided into 17 different parts, are interrelated. None of them is exclusive of each other. Ensuring zero hunger, better employment, education, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are closely linked with eradicating poverty. Looking at every goal in a silo is not going to yield sustainable development of the society as a whole.
So, how does one uplift the disadvantaged community using SDGs?
Social entrepreneurship is the next step in the journey of Social Innovation. Human-centric, impact-oriented ideas when turned into scalable solutions can help the disadvantaged communities rise above their problems.
While government policies play a major role in bringing about positive development, they are mostly top-down in nature. What we need is social enterprises who rise at the grass root level, understand the problems of disadvantaged communities more intimately and innovate solutions sharply focused on various problems faced by them. Which is why social entrepreneurs are agents of inclusive growth.
Jimani Collections is an apparel brand that trains and employs women from low-income backgrounds in Kenya, to create beautiful apparels and jewellery. Their core philosophy revolves around making women self-reliant and empowering them to lead a dignified life.
Shri Mahila Udyog Lijjat Papad has been empowering women from the lower income classes for decades through their co-operative enterprise model.
Now, one may say, what unique solutions can work here when the target community is disadvantaged in some or the other way? If an individual belongs to the LGBTQ community, does it mean that the person is physically and intellectually unfit to do any work? Today, these communities are suffering not because of their sexual orientation but because they were born in an environment where social stigma is immense.
Dedicated to using sustainable fabric and practices, Kirrin Finch sells menswear-inspired shirts designed to fit women, transgender men, and nonbinary people. Founded by couple Laura Moffat and Kelly Sanders Moffat, Kirrin Finch was founded to “meet the demand for gender-defying fashion.”
Through this, Kirrin not only appeals to the demands of the LGBTQ community but also offers a platform for the community to hone their talents and help them find their way back into the society.
Sheroes cafe, employs acid attack victims as their cafe’s key staff to help them get their confidence and dignity back.
Real impact doesn’t lie in servicing the disadvantaged communities, but empowering them to use their positive attributes and realizing their human potential.
The social stigma and the wide economic divide is what is keeping the disadvantaged communities from stepping towards positive growth. Social Entrepreneurs can mobilise resources and create solutions in line with the SDGs to empower the disadvantaged communities, further government’s initiatives and fuel inclusive growth.
Cover Image: NCDHR.org