AeSha for Friendships Foundation: Bringing Worlds Together, Changing Lives Together
Written By: Kriti Anand
A somewhat unusual sounding word, has quite a deep meaning behind. The source of this word can be found in two sister languages, and the meaning of this word can tell the story and mission of the AeSha Foundation. AeSha is an amalgam of two words from Sanskrit and Urdu language which translates to “Her own Desire”. The founding members of AeSha are just like the name of the organisation; everyone from different fields excelling in various areas of research and comprehension. This led to them coming under one umbrella with an aim to priorities a gender-based lens to developmental work and create new benchmarks for more equitable organisational cultures. The nanocluster of many people who are well versed in their streams gives AeSha a unique lens to progress and attainment of these goals.
AeSha for Friendships Foundation strives to think beyond the conventional strategic poles of either the ‘corporate’ or the ‘social’. This allows AeSha to create a more amalgamating work culture and promote values that uphold human emotions and agency. The idea of AeSha was conceived at a time when its base city, Delhi NCR saw one of the most disturbing periods of violence in North-East Delhi. The situation was further exacerbated as the COVID-induced lockdown necessitated the unprecedented need for relief and rehabilitation to meet the needs of people from different socio-economic strata. During these times, AeSha worked towards providing essential resources and requirements available to women, who were already struggling with their day-to-day responsibilities and affected by compounded vulnerabilities. The organisation focuses on a 360-degree approach towards sustainable interventions ranging widely, with some crucial sectors being – Livelihood Building, Enrichment through Education, Psycho-Social Health and Co-Mentorship Programmes for women.
AeSha aims to nurture and nourish a self-motivated and agency-driven atmosphere of work which increases the room for daily mutual understanding and nourishment. AeSha works for the betterment of the quality of life of marginalised communities via Capability Enhancement, Sustainable Living, Psycho-Social Support, Assistive Education, Civic Engagement programs and better realisation of Fundamental Rights. Special programmes are devised with and for a diverse range of stakeholders, including single mothers, women waste-pickers, wives of the incarcerated, rural women entrepreneurs, urban women farmers, first-generation women learners and women artisans. Alongside this, AeSha aims to build sustainable community relationships and work towards upholding the voices and agency of women in particular.
ORGANISATIONAL EFFORTS AND MOTIVATIONS
For AeSha, building impactful and sustainable development projects is about designing interventions that are based on community insights and the immediate and long-term needs of the concerned individuals, demography and neighbourhood. In this venture, they do understand that as much as advancement is about individual will and strength, it is also about the social conditions surrounding them, under which the will and strength can be nourished. AeSha makes a conscious effort to recognise the varying requirements of specific places, demographics and identities. It is not just the context that drives AeSha’s approach; the organisation strives equally to tailor their approach in line with the dreams and aspirations that people have for the betterment of their lives and their community.
AeSha works with a diverse base of stakeholders in geographies that presents varying requirements. It has to employ then processes and models that can cater to a diverse set of needs and aspirations. This pushes AeSha to understand vulnerability and aspirations very differently for different people. It also then demands tailor-made arrangements for all women that they work with because they believe that there is no “One Size Fits All” approach to anybody in this field. AeSha works in a time where social structures and systems are at either a standstill or completely disintegrated. But they believe that different individuals and organisations have a responsibility to see within this moment of disintegration, possibilities of rebuilding day-to-day lives through sustainable relationships and high-impact engagements. Thus, AeSha’s efforts are directed towards creating micro spaces of transformation, and consequently, working towards increasing spaces such as these. For them, this becomes possible by committing to change that recognises people and their emotions as a base for sensitive and responsible decision making that can produce value-based intelligent responses.
AeSha isn’t some deep-rooted organisation with ancestry that dates back to years. The four-month-old company has found a way to work and thrive in the violence and lockdown of Delhi. Regardless, AeSha has developed programmes in line with local and contextual demands for both, the women of Yamuna Vihar Learning Centre in North-Eastern Delhi and the Sanjay Colony Learning Centre in South Delhi. Both the Learning Centres are imagined as spaces for women to work and engage in the process of community learning and social support. AeSha believes in the principles of community ownership over its operations. The Learning Centers are wholly owned and managed by single mothers, women entrepreneurs, women artisans and women educators who engage in work of their own choice and making. Taking their work forward from their relief efforts, the organisation is working with women whose lives were disproportionately impacted after the North-East Delhi violence and the lockdown to create opportunities for sustainable and decent incomes and social support.
AeSha is also developing community engagement programmes with women waste pickers from JJ Colony, Old Seemapuri in East Delhi. They strive to create sustainable employment opportunities for women waste-pickers, create possibilities of community-centred educational practice and psycho-social support. The organisation hopes to channelise the demands, needs and aspirations of these communities through the means of advocacy and context-relevant on-ground implementation of policies.
An outcome of their approach is that the operations are led by ‘Project Weavers’ who connect different stakeholders from a community with varying strands of their work, i.e., livelihood generation, education, and psycho-social support. As individuals deeply invested in bringing change through micro-spaces, the project weavers herald site-specific operations, while paving the way for city-wide interlinkages. Closely engaging with and supporting entrepreneurial thinking of project weavers entails that the organisation is invested in their imaginative and ingenious thinking, and in their ability to drive initiatives with best possible insights about their neighbourhoods. Supplementing this, a co-mentorship component of all their projects ensures that AeSha steps in whenever different project weavers themselves identify gaps. Preparing a community of everyday innovators and enterprising women necessitates that they tailor their approach on a case-to-case basis instead of signing up for standardised solutions or interventions.
AeSha foresees what they intended on: strengthening to work in conflict-ridden regions. Their conviction comes from the fact that they have done work through a crisis intensive year in Delhi. Given the 360-degree focus, their ultimate vision is to create a cross-network of livelihoods and internal supply chains across various sites, while simultaneously strengthening interventions in education and psycho-social health. Through this work, AeSha aims to offer a unique lens of practice to policy-making and social consulting.
BELIEFS AND EXECUTIONS: A CONCLUSION
AeSha’s strengths lie in its unique field-based insights and a focus on human-centred design. They attempt to create spaces of sustainable impact guided by values of friendship and mutual support. AeSha posits that reason and emotions aren’t extreme opposites. One needs both of these to function and be able to do something that brings a change in the world. As they give importance to research-based interventions, they are incredibly open to local partnerships with individuals or organisations who work on similar issues. The organisation gives priority to local push, support, and collaboration across sites rife with compounded marginalisation and conflict, especially for women.
Most importantly and true to the organisation’s name, AeSha for Friendships’ soul resides in the fact that “It is possible to hone friendships in business.”