Duo from India among 37 recipients globally.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: Two people from India, and one each from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, have been honored as 2014 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by the Schwab Foundation.
India’s Shelly Batra and Chetna Vijay Sinha have been recognized by the esteemed organization, along with A.T. and Vinya Ariyaratne of Sri Lanka, Shaikh Saif Al Rashid of Bangladesh, and Sanduk Ruit of Nepal. The five are among 37 total recipients of the commendation, which seeks to recognize individuals who are “pioneering solutions for social and environmental challenges including urban revitalization, renewable energy, unemployment, and more.”
“Social entrepreneurs are the driving force behind innovations that improve the quality of life of individuals around the world, and they represent an integral and dynamic community of the World Economic Forum,” said Hilde Schwab, the Foundation’s co-founder, in a statement. “The 37 outstanding social entrepreneurs we have selected into the Schwab Foundation community this year are designing transformative models in collaboration with government and business partners to generate truly inclusive growth.”
Batra is the founder and president of Operation ASHA, an organization she co-created with Sandeep Ahuja in order to help make India completely tuberculosis-free. Founded in 2005, the organization is fighting against the disease, which is rampant in India. The country tops the list in terms of nations with the highest burden of TB, and since its inception, Operation ASHA has provided treatment in 2,053 slums in six Indian states and two provinces in Cambodia.
An obstetrician and gynecologist by training, she has M.D. and M.B.B.S. degrees from King George’s Medical College, in Lucknow. While there, she also won the prestigious Abdullah Haji Omar Trophy, the University Book Prize for best academic performance, and the Dr. S.S. Khan Gold Medal for Best Student.
Sinha – who was recognized by the Schwab Foundation last year, too, as the winner of its 2013 India Social Entrepreneur of the Year award – was singled out for her work with Mann Deshi Group of Ventures and the Mann Deshi Foundation. Sinha, along with her two organizations, provides the largest microfinance operation in the state of Maharashtra, with over 185,000 clients accrued since its founding in 1997.
The organization began in a single village, and has now grown to over 15,000. It helps provide banking services to underprivileged people in rural areas, so that they can start businesses, jump-start local economies, and work their way out of poverty. It also seeks to empower women and children by giving them more economic opportunities.
The Ariyaratnes are at the head of an organization called Sarvodaya, which works to “facilitate individual and community development to meet basic human needs, reduce material, social and spiritual poverty, and enhance the quality of life for all.”
Rashid is the CEO of JITA Bangladesh, which works to create employment opportunities for women throughout the country, and Ruit is the head of the Nepal Eye Program, Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology.