It was a chance encounter with a small girl begging on the streets of Northern India that set Canadian Raju Agarwal down the path of helping transform the lives of women and girls in one of the poorest areas of the world. While traveling around India, he was struck by the poverty and disadvantage he saw, particularly the effect of illiteracy and economic disadvantage on the country’s young girls.
“I saw families lying on railway platforms that were completely emaciated, and children begging, unable to go to school,” Agarwal says. “While talking to some girls, it struck me that they have the same aspirations as girls everywhere else, they just don’t have the same opportunities. I decided then and there that I wanted to do something to make a difference in their lives.”
Years of research followed and ultimately resulted in the creation of OneProsper International, a nonprofit that supports Indian girls and their families by trying to remove barriers to education. The organization does this in a variety of ways. By providing rainwater harvest tanks, for example, OneProsper prevents girls from having to spend hours every day walking to collect drinking water. By providing filtration systems, the nonprofit helps to ensure that water is clean and free of water-borne diseases, so that the girls don’t become sick.
OneProsper also supplies the girls it supports with bicycles to reduce their commute to school, and gives them uniforms and educational supplies, while paying for their first year of tuition. Meanwhile, it helps grow the family’s incomes and improve their nutrition by building kitchen gardens and irrigation systems.
In 2018, OneProsper supported its first cohort of 60 girls from the Thar Desert, one of the most impoverished areas in India, where more than half of all girls can’t read or write. This year, the program has grown to support 100 girls. It has also set the ambitious goal of helping 1,000 girls a year going forward.
Of course, doing so takes considerable financial resources. It costs CA$1,100 to support each girl, and all of OneProsper’s work relies entirely on donations and volunteers. It’s also a 100 percent self-sustaining model. The improvements in their families’ economic outcomes means that after the initial investment, the families are no longer dependent on aid. “We’re really pleased with the progress we’ve made so far,” says Agarwal, “but we couldn’t do any of it without the help of others.”
Here at Espresso, we’re committed to supporting causes that enable girls and women, and that give them the resources they need to access education and, by extension, great careers. That’s why we’re proud to support OneProsper. It’s one of many great ways that organizations can help play a role in creating better opportunities for girls and women. That’s something that’s particularly important in our industry.
A few weeks ago, Female Funders, powered by venture capital and startup co-creation company Highline BETA, published its 2019 “Women in Venture Report” which provides a baseline look at gender in venture capital in Canada and across the United States. One of its key findings is that there’s an obvious gender gap in the over 200 venture capital firms and corporate venture arms across North America. In Canada, for example, only 17.5 percent of venture partners are female.
While there is obviously much work to be done to help close that gap and all of the others that exist around the world, we’re committed to doing our part and encourage you to do so, too. When you donate to OneProsper, every dollar you give becomes two, thanks to the generosity of a family foundation. Join us in donating and transforming the lives of some of the poorest women and girls in the world. To do so, or simply to find out more, visit https://www.oneprosper.ca.