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The Impulse to Bring Change

Super User 19 Dec 2017

By NE Travel and Life

In the last decade, a quiet movement at the grassroots has been changing things in some of India’s Northeast’s villages. A petite warrior has been at the forefront of an anti-trafficking movement in the state in particular and the Northeast andNorth Bengal in generalscaling up to Myanamar,Nepal and Bangladesh over the last six years.Hasina Kharbhih has been working relentlessly for the last two decades to stop human trafficking and provide livelihood support in rural Northeast through her NGO, ImpulseNGO Network.As a grassroots activist and social entrepreneur, Kharbhih has made significant changes in the lives of the people of the Northeastand neighbouring countries. So, how did it all begin?

Enterprising Idea

Even before she completed school, Kharbhih knew that she had to do something about child exploitation and humantrafficking in her state. As an active volunteer in the Leadership Training Services programme, she used to participate in weekend charity activities. So, when she completed school, she started Impulse NGO Network in the early Nineties. Even though she received some support from the government, it wasn’t sufficient. That’s when she decided to cash in on Meghalaya’s rich tribal handicraft. By taking the handicrafts to the market, she believed, would give the local women a means to sustain themselves. With this idea in mind, Kharbhih started with her nearby ancestral village Syntein in the east Khasi hills, located in the middle of the now famous Mawsymram district. Soon, she was marketing the local goods not just in India but also abroad through her brother’s export firm, Sen Kharbhih. “One of our main aim is also to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship,” she says. The Empower products feature different tribal patterns native to the producers and fashioned into home furnishings,accessories andgarments. Presently, inorder to encourage women entrepreneurship, e-commerce giant Amazon India has collaborated with Impulse Social Enterprises (ISE).Women entrepreneurs associated with ISE will be able to offer their products to Amazon.in customers through a dedicated storefront, ‘the Saheli Store’ and also through their direct online store www.impulsempower.com. Kharbhih is also part of a Unescobook contribution to Intangible Cultural Heritage to Sustainable Development in South Asia, aninitiative to define and map folklore and traditional knowledge of weaving.

Impulse Model

The next step for Kharbhih was to consolidate her efforts to stop human trafficking. To do so, she initiated the Meghalaya Model, which later came to be known as the Impulse Model. The model works on the principle of bringing different stakeholders under one roof and together fighting the threat of human trafficking. The different stakeholders include state governments, legal and judicial system, civil society and security organisations. Bringing them together in this fight is essential as human trafficking is too large an issue to be handled by a single organisation. It is done through the application of 6 Ps (Partnership, Prevention, Protection, Policing, Press and Prosecution) and the 6 Rs (Reporting, Rescue, Rehabilitation, Repatriation and Re-compensation). Launched in Meghalaya, the model has been replicated in all Northeastern states, and has also been adopted in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal. In the last25years, the network hasmanaged to cover 72442 cases of trafficking. Besides rescuing, it also helps in rehabilitating the victimsthrough Impulse Case Info CentrePartners.

Employment Matters

In 2010, Impulse Social Enterprises (www.impulsempower.com) came into existence after a need was felt to operatehybrid model under a for-profit business structure.A brainchild of Kharbhih, it was moulded through inputs from a panel of advisors. Kharbhih was joined in her mission by her brotherA.G.Kharbhih and college friend Rosanna Lyngdoh. In 2012-13, ISE managed a turnover of Rs 4.2 lakh and is now close to breaking even. A bulk of its orders come from small boutiques followed with corporate orders. Kharbhih sees the fruitful engagement of rural women as a means to end not just their poverty but also check unsafe migration. She says, “Sixty percent of India’s population is in rural areas and at these locations, women are limited to their homes. If we can give these women the opportunity to work from the comfort of their homes, they don’t need to travel to cities to look for work and land up in exploitative situations. The Northeast needs a strong identity to bind it and I believe art and craft could be the answer. It’s even better if this helps prevent unsafe migration.”

Poetry Liberates

When she is not busy with her projects and social enterprise, Kharbhih writes poems and blogs. For her, poetry is a way of ‘letting out issues’. She believes that is a great form of discussion expression. “Through poetry I trail the path of my unconscious mind, living the thoughts of mind which generally lost in the day-to-day hectic life,” she says.

With her efforts paying off, Kharbhih now hopes to take her social enterprise to a global platform. With her kind of passion, the sky is the only limit.

For more on her work, log into www.hasinakharbhih.com

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