Popularly known as the Clothing Man. Recipient of Roman Magsaysay award. Started as a freelance journalist, left the corporate world and founded GOONJ in 1999 to bring ignored issues of clothing and rural wisdom into the radar of development subjects. Ashoka and Schwab Fellow, credited for creating a mass movement for recycling and reusing material as a resource for rural development. Holds degrees in mass communications and economics.
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- Non-profit Social Enterprise
- Areas of Impact
- South Asia, India
Goonj views the waste of urban India as a surplus resource and under-utilized wealth. Although this is especially critical during times of disaster or emergency, Goonj moves materials throughout the year. This has necessitated the creation of collection centres in eight major cities and an extensive logistics network comprised of multiple partners.
Every year, Goonj receives over 1,000 tonnes of clothing, books, shoes, furniture, toys, utensils, construction materials, medical supplies, and office equipment. All of these items are sorted, repurposed, repacked and transported to communities according to their specific needs. While people in urban areas often discard what they no longer want, Goonj is teaching people to contribute based on what the poor actually need, thus giving dignity to the receiving communities.
Through its network of 250 NGOs, 200 company partners, and 500 volunteers, Goonj has an impact across 21 states in India. In exchange for cloth and other materials, and with the technical support of Goonj, village and slum communities are incentivized to organize local development and infrastructure-building programmes. This has led to 500 infrastructure projects across 1,500 villages every year, including the creation of schools, concrete roads, bridges, wells, irrigation canals and toilets.
The Cloth for Work programme is integral to this development work in ultra-poor areas. In the aftermath of a disaster, families are often only left with manual labour as a source for sustenance. Thus Goonj designs and distributes trade kits that match people’s skills (e.g. carpentry, shoe repair, cycle repair, tailoring, barber work). In exchange for the trade kit, recipients contribute to village development through labour or by giving a portion of the profit generated from the trade. Since 2008, Goonj has created kits for more than 20 different trades.
Another example is its sanitary napkins, created from remnants of discarded cotton cloth that is washed, sterilized, ironed and stitched. Goonj’s sanitary napkins are sold for INR1 per napkin and have reached 2 million first-time women users, leading to much needed education and discourse around women’s reproductive health in rural areas.