The Spring semester starts today, and it feels completely surreal. Having been home for a few days now, I can’t help but feel like I have this beautiful secret inside my head whenever I think of India around my friends and family. No matter how many stories I tell them or pictures I show them, I know they will never be able to grasp the magnificent contrast of progress and poverty we experienced while there. Because of this, I am even more grateful for my American classmates, who were with me every step of the way and can completely understand.
On the first two days of class, those of us who were working with organizations for our projects were able to visit them. My group’s organization, Family Planning Association of India, offers a wide variety of services relating to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) for free, mainly to people living below the poverty line. It was amazing to witness how importantly they regard their mission of advocacy and access, even though many of the people they serve don’t always see the value in what they’re providing. After observing the organization for two days, we took all of our gathered information to the classroom.
Initially, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to see any tie-ins between entrepreneurship and innovation in regards to what our organization does. As the days progressed, we listened to class lectures and guest speakers, and it became clear to me. In India, discussing sexual education and health can still be very taboo, as it sometimes is here in the US, too. Despite how uncomfortable it makes people, and despite the fact that some people would rather be sick and suffer than address their sexual and reproductive health needs, FPAI pushes forward. What they’re doing can be new and uncomfortable culturally to many of the people they encounter, but they refuse to give up. They utilize a network of diverse partners with multiple channels to do what they do. In a country with a population as large as India’s, their work is crucially pioneering, and nothing less than admirable.
Working with FPAI while learning about innovation and entrepreneurship really made me reconsider the value of social entrepreneurship. Although not always profitable like traditional entrepreneurship, it can be infinitely more rewarding. In aiming to provide education, access, and treatment regarding SRH to India, FPAI is faced with the challenge of forcing a paradigm shift. They face this challenge with all the passion, bravery, and creativity that you would expect from people who know that if they should succeed, the world will be changed for the better forever.