Sonal Sachdev Patel – WMM October 2017 Member of the Month
Why should one human being have less value than another, or be treated as such?
It is this feeling that has underpinned much of my drive on this philanthropic journey at GMSP Foundation. That, and the desire to take the rigour and efficiency of the business world and apply it to the not for profit sector.
My parents came to the UK from East Africa in the late 60s without a penny to their names. They worked hard and brought up my brother, sister, and I with all the opportunities of living in the UK combined with an Indian and family-oriented culture. They emphasised values of duty – not only to one’s family but to all others. Their deep sense of spirituality, compassion, and citizenship ensured that we never took our privilege for granted- a legacy I consciously try to pass on to my own children.
Having graduated with an Economics degree from Cambridge University and worked at Bain & Company in private equity and strategy consulting, I was keen to think strategically about our family’s giving. The hard data, as well as our hearts, led us to focus on women and girls – a group that are aching for an opportunity to progress, and who take their families, and their communities, with them as they progress on their journeys.
We believe that funding alone is not the answer. NGO leaders need our networks, our strategic support, and our belief in them, to succeed. We seek out smart, driven, and capable leaders at the grassroots, who have a proven track record and a vision of transformational change. Then we support them with our full armoury of resources, and champion them to thrive.
Our focus is India and the UK. We believe there is no silver bullet; therefore, we take a holistic approach that supports women and girls across the myriad of issues that face them. In India, we provide support across 3 major streams, which all work to change mindsets, as we believe this is the only way to bring about real systemic change.
- Social and emotional education in early years for girls and boys:
- As Aristotle said, “Education of the head is nothing without education of the heart”. We agree. Neuroscience tells us that the brain is the most neuroplastic between the ages of 3 to 5. Therefore, we work with Think Equal to bring a unique program to schools to teach children basic, yet crucial life skills, such as conflict management, resilience, empathy and respect for difference and diversity.
- Investment in the legal sector to ensure fair and just processes to protect women’s and children’s human rights:
- We believe the legal system is crucial to bringing systemic change to the human rights of the most vulnerable communities. We analyse the situation and community to understand where our intervention will be most valued. For example, we work with Majlis to train high court judges in Mumbai on gender sensitisation, thereby challenging and reversing deep-set patriarchal norms.
- Community based initiatives at the grassroots working with both women and men:
I am honoured to be part of the WMM community. We see the huge value of this kind of sisterhood at the grassroots level, and I feel it is equally important for us.
We rise by lifting others.
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