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Meenakshi Gupta

Two decades ago in 1999, co-founded GOONJ, an award-winning non-profit. Commerce graduate with an advanced degree in Advertising and Public Relations from India's IIMC, largely remained the behind the scenes worker in the initial years of Goonj. 2005, joined the work full-time, ending 15-year corporate career, also ending 8-year stint as News Publicity Head at BBC South Asia. Has focused on serving the people and the team with the foundational values of Goonj. Passionate about giving voice to unheard communities, especially women, on their neglected issues and needs like menstrual hygiene, in far flung villages of India. Is working to build pan-India civic engagement through powerful communication with the masses. Widely travelled nationally and internationally. Time with people in the deep interiors of India is biggest learning personally and professionally. Trained dance movement facilitator; finds it most enriching and inspiring to connect with youths taking initiatives for the country.

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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.


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