The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in partnership with the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation, announced Urvashi Sahni as India Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2017.
The award honors her exceptional contribution towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of education, by empowering India’s most disadvantaged girls. Aided by technology and partnerships with the state governments of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, SHEF has worked with 900 schools, trained 5,000 teachers and impacted 150,000 girls directly and 270,000 girls indirectly affected by poverty and gender discrimination.
Madhu Pandit Dasa of The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF) was a finalist for his work on providing nutritious and hygienic meals to children in schools through India’s ambitious midday meal scheme. In less than a decade, The Akshaya Patra Foundation has established itself as the world’s largest meal provider – feeding 1.6 million children a day across 12 states.
Safeena Husain of Educate Girls (EG) was also a finalist for her venture that addresses gender inequality in education. At the heart of her model is a highly motivated cadre of 10,000 volunteers called “Team Balika”. EG has grown in 10 years into a programme involving more than 16,000 schools, with over 150,000 girls enrolled in school to date (with 90% retention), and reaching over 3.8 million beneficiaries.
Out of hundreds of social entrepreneurs who went through the 13th annual Social Entrepreneur of the Year selection process for India, three finalists emerged after several stages of rigorous assessment. This year’s judges included Paul Basil, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Villgro Innovation Foundation; Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson and Editorial Director of HT Media; Neelam Chhiber, Founder of Industree Crafts Foundation and Winner of the India Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2011; Neichute Doulo, Founder of Entrepreneur Associates and Winner of the India Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2016; Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer of NITI Aayog, Government of India; Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman of Hero Enterprise; Sudha Pillai, Board Member of Jubilant Life Sciences, who served as Member Secretary of the Planning Commission, Government of India; and Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
Commenting on the finalists, Schwab said, “This year’s three finalists are working to address different aspects of education – midday meals to help students focus in school, increasing girls’ enrolment in marginalized areas, and helping to change attitudes and culture around gender roles through schools. Our three finalists are operating across India, pioneering advances in technology, community engagement and learning methodology to build a strong educational foundation that will enable India’s future as a prosperous, innovative and inclusive society.”
“We feel inspired by the passion of the three finalists. High technology can brighten the potential of India’s social entrepreneurs. This has been proven by the finalists through their use of modern technology in implementing change. The last eight years of organizing the award have been an insightful and enriching experience for us. For the winners, the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award has offered opportunities to network, identify new avenues for funding and enhanced their learning curve,” said Shyam S. Bhartia, Chairman and Founder, and Hari S. Bhartia, Co-Chairman and Founder, Jubilant Bhartia Group, both Founder Directors of Jubilant Bhartia Foundation.
The winner will be invited to join the Schwab Foundation’s global community of over 300 social innovators. Social Entrepreneurs are driven by their mission to create substantial social change and promote inclusive growth, developing new products and service models that benefit underserved communities.