Anshu Gupta, founder of Goonj.org and popularly known as clothing man of India talks about dignity and self-respect through clothing.
A road accident in Dehradun left Anshu Gupta bed-ridden in a government hospital for a year. He needed a surgery but the doctor refused to operate him without a bribe. His parents refused to pay. Fortunately for Anshu things turned out well and he started walking again. Because of his parent’s decision, he says, that he stands on his own foot and not a bribed one.
During his budding days as a journalist, Anshu Gupta happened to meet a man called Habib in the streets of Delhi. Habib rode a rickshaw like cart to pick unclaimed dead bodies from around Delhi and take these to crematorium. He used to pick 4 times the usual in winter months. Anshu spent a week along with Habib. He found that the single reason for so many deaths in winter was due to lack of warm clothing. He found that more people died in cold weather due to lack of clothing than in natural disaster. And it was neither the government’s agenda nor anyone else’s to solve this. Thus, started the journey of Goonj in 1998 to solve this ‘non-issue’ of clothing. Around 2004, women’s health became a priority for Goonj. Even though India being a nation with some very big self-help groups for women, no one talked about women’s menstrual cycle which was a cause for lot of health issues amongst rural women. Even a blind girl knows that blood is red despite having never seen red colour all her life. Goonj started developing cloth based tampons that rural women could use during their monthly cycle instead of re-using clothes, sometimes even paper or plastic. Goonj employs people with disabilities to make products out of clothes that are then sold in cities. Today, after 18 years, 600 employees in 22 states and moving 3000 tons of material from rich cities to poor villages in India, Anshu still feels that Goonj has much more ground to cover in restoring dignity and self-respect of people.