10 days, 100,000 to go… will we, won’t we?

This week, we received Rs. 56001/- in donations. Thank you very much to our donors, all of whom have been supporting us since the beginning.

We still have half the journey ahead, and just over ten days to go. Will we make it? Won’t we? My eyes are shut tightly, my breath almost suspended, fingers and toes tightly crossed and touching wood…. it will happen, surely! We cannot have so much support and not receive the rest of what we need?

There’s some other good news too, but it deserves a post of its own!


With your help, we can do anything!

April 14, 2013

Dear friends,

It’s a new financial year, and the beginning of a new calendar year for many of us. Prajnya enters this year with a little unspent money, from late-in-the-year donations and workshops we did—and for us, this is a relatively new experience. It emboldens us to dream—of doing more, of doing bigger and better, of moving into our space, of paying for a core team. But dreams cost less than reality.

Nevertheless, at Prajnya, we have never let reality deter us. We had faith that if we started doing what we could, friends who share our values would soon walk with us and become part of our dream. As you have. Have we remembered to thank you, and have we thanked you profusely enough?

For our most visible and active programme, the Gender Violence Research and Information Taskforce, 2013-14 is going to be a year of ‘deepening’ activities. So far, we have tried to reach as many people as possible to get them to think and talk about sexual and gender-based violence. After the December gang-rape in Delhi, awareness is much greater. We would like to take the next step to do more training, dialogue, research-based information initiatives and closed, focused, substantive conversations. This year of quieter, deeper public education work will cost us around Rs. 250,000.00, out of which Rs. 200,000.00 is our budget (for programme, materials and human resources costs) for the 2013 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence.

The less visible part of our work, done under the rubric of the Prajnya Resource Centre on Women in Politics and Policy, is in the area of women’s history. Apart from the many activities that cost us virtually nothing, we would like to take some of the oral history work we have done a little further—transcription, editing, perhaps podcasting—and we would like to hold outreach activities for both oral history and the Prajnya Archives. A little deepening and a little widening, in this case! We would like to make Rs. 50,000.00 available to this work.

In all, we anticipate that with an additional Rs. 300,000.00 that we raise between April 14, 2013 and May 31, 2013, we should be able to sustain our activities at the present level, while deepening our impact.

This is going to be a year of some comings and goings in our team. No one ever really leaves because everyone volunteers, but we anticipate that there will be some changes in how much time and what kind of time people will be able to give. The ability to outsource some work (such as transcription) or to pay trainers an honorarium will go a long way to allowing us to function. We are anxious that while people are newly aware and eager to be informed or to act on women’s rights and security, we should be available to do this work. This should not be the year that we lie low because of a lack of human and other resources. Please help us make this transition.

We are also very ready to move into an office of our own (rented, gifted or loaned). We anticipate that between rent, overheads, maintenance and human resources, this will add around Rs. 600,000.00 a year to our budget. In this appeal, we are not asking you for that. With all the challenges of our present situation (borrowed space, volunteers on varying schedules, nowhere to hold a small meeting), it is more important to us that we have the money we need to get the work done. We trust the rest will follow. Somehow, someday, soon.

To summarise: between April 14 and May 31, 2013, Prajnya is trying to raise Rs. 300,000.00 (Rs. 3 lakhs) to support its activities in 2013-14. We would be extremely grateful for your support.

This is how you can donate:

  • By cheque or DD (payable at Chennai) in the name of “The Prajnya Trust” to our registered office address. Email us (prajnyatrust@gmail.com) for an address.
  • By electronic transfer:
    • Account name: The Prajnya Trust
    • Bank & branch: HDFC Bank, T.Nagar, Chennai 600 017
    • Account number: 02062560002557
    • RTGS/ NEFT IFSC: HDFC0000206
    • Please email us (prajnyatrust@gmail.com) to inform us of your donation, donation date, amount and transaction details.
  • We prefer not to receive cash donations.

Please note: Donations to Prajnya qualify for tax deduction. [Donations to Prajnya from 01-04-2008 to 31-03-2011 qualify for deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961 as per I.T. Dept. Notification DIT (E) No. 2(573)2006-07 dated 26-09-2008. In view of the amendment brought about by Finance (No.2) Act/ 2009 regiarding automatic renewal of exemption u/S 80G, approval granted earlier to the Trust is valid in perpetuity.]


We are, because you support us. Thank you!


Swarna Rajagopalan
Managing Trustee, Prajnya

Prajnya’s first Marathon!

For the first time, Prajnya was represented in a Marathon: The Delhi Half-Marathon on September 30, 2012.

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A report from Hemant Shivakumar, a Prajnya volunteer working in Delhi, who took the initiative to make this possible:

Prajnya’s runners’ network and the Delhi Half Marathon
Prajnya’s 16-day campaign against gender violence commences on November 25, 2012. As a run up, team Prajnya’s volunteers at Delhi decided to use the ‘Airtel Delhi Half Marathon’ to promote Prajnya’s campaign and to kickstart a runners’ network for Prajnya. The runners network for Prajnya will comprise of volunteers around India/ world, ready to participate in runs and half marathons to promote team Prajnya and to convey a resounding ‘NO’ to violence against women. Prajnya’s runners’ network got off the ground with participation in the Delhi Half Marathon held on 30 September 2012 @ Delhi.
In Delhi, Ravikiran Upadrasta volunteered to sport the Prajnya Tshirt and run the half marathon. He completed the 21km run successfully. The run began at JLN stadium and passed Lodhi road, Rajpath, Jantar Mantar, and back to JLN stadium.
Hemant and Meghnad were the two non-running Prajnya volunteers at the Delhi Half Marathon.
Prajnya’s runners network will participate at the Chennai Marathon (December 1, 2012) and the Mumbai Marathon (January 20, 2013). Watch us run and rally against gender violence!
To become part of the Prajnya Runners’ Network, email hemant.prajnya@gmail.com.

On our fifth birthday, thank you!

Prajnya Initiatives turn 5 on September 9, 2012.

As the founder, I am alternately stunned by Prajnya’s journey, and winded by its exertions. People ask, what have you achieved, and I honestly have no answer except to say that the world changes if you keep moving and working. And you, have made this possible for us. It all works because we walk together. That, I know with complete certainty.

I am writing to thank you for supporting our work with your generous donation—whether it has taken the form of money, moral support, time that you have given us, shared expertise, shared network or cooperative partnership—one or more of the above.

To our donors: Your financial support speaks to us at multiple levels. It allows us to go out into the marketplace of goods and services to facilitate our work. When we stumble into self-doubt, it tells us, no, keep moving, you are on the right track. Or, don’t worry, I have faith in you. And most important, it gives us a community to which we can point and say: They believe in this cause, too. It’s not just us. You are the energy behind this change that we will bring about, creating a peaceful and just world. It’s happening because you want it to happen. We really couldn’t do anything without you, and all of us at Prajnya are profoundly grateful to you for your thoughtfulness, moral support and generosity.

To our partners: The work of making the world a better place is no one’s private turf. All of us care, all of us have committed to trying our best and we can each work best by learning from others and walking and working together from time to time. Those are values enshrined in Prajnya’s founding documents, and in the five years since our founding, all of us have repeatedly learnt that seeking to work with others is both an intrinsic and an instrumental good. It is working with other organizations like yours that has made our efforts possible, plausible and effective. We value our partnership with you, more than you know. And we thank you humbly for everything we have learnt from you in these years of our working together.

To resource persons, teachers and friends: At Prajnya, we did not start with the illusion that we possessed the competence to do everything ourselves. And all our experiences have only reinforced this clarity. If experienced and expert persons like you were not willing to share knowledge, skills, time and networks with us, what would we have been able to do? I will tell you: virtually nothing. I hope we do this every time we work together, but I certainly want to take a moment today to tell you how vital your support is to making our work possible. And I want to thank you for everything all of us at Prajnya have learnt from you. By participating in our projects and programmes, you have been friend, resource and teacher. We count on your continued presence in our community.

A heartfelt namaste; a very humble thank you, and a promise to do our best, are what we give you in return.

Swarna Rajagopalan, on behalf of the entire Prajnya team

Birthday party!

Prajnya turns 5 on September 9, 2012. We brought forward our celebration to September 1, to coincide with our Board of Trustees meeting. Here’s one group photo to share, in which we are draped in dupattas especially dyed in Prajnya colours for the occasion as a gift by a Friend of Prajnya, Kavitha Reddy.

To those who couldn’t make it, we did miss you! We hope you will be around for Prajnya 10!

New Trustee, new Advisor

New Trustee

During their February 2012 meeting, Prajnya’s Trustees resolved to invite Anjale Stephanos to join the Board. Anjale is a young management professional, who has worked in a variety of capacities with the travel industry, educational management and how works in the information technology sector.

New Advisor

After almost five years of picking her brain for all sorts of programmes and projects, we finally decided to make it official and invite Ammu Joseph to be on our Panel of Advisors. Ammu needs no introduction really–one of India’s leading journalists, she has also been in the forefront of the Indian women’s movement.

Volunteering at Prajnya


This is the time of year when people email me and say that they/their students would like to intern or volunteer with Prajnya. In principle, we welcome everybody. In practice, we’ve learnt there are some caveats and some concerns.

For an internship or volunteer experience to work, both sides need to benefit and both sides need to feel good about the contribution of the intern/volunteer.

So we have learned what the caveats are that we need to issue, beyond the mandatory, there is no money for this work.

1. We are not a service organization. So if someone is seeking a feel-good task like visiting the elderly, bathing strays in a shelter or distributing food packets, then we may be able to suggest another organization that can use your help. But we just don’t do that work.

2. We don’t have an office. So it’s not possible to come and help in the office every Thursday morning.

3. We actually don’t have assignable tasks. We are so small we only have responsibilities we are happy to share with or delegate with volunteers. In fact, ALL Prajnya core team members are volunteers. We give our time, while earning a living. So the work happens all the time, and yet not all the time.

For most people seeking to give time to an organization, this doesn’t work. And we understand that. Life is so demanding these days, we really appreciate the time people give us or your intention to volunteer somewhere.

What does work for us is when people slowly start coming to our programmes like the monthly roundtables or to engage with us on social media, and then start getting more and more involved over a period of time. Every single person who is now a pillar has started gingerly and then taken ownership of the Prajnya vision. And we welcome that.

What sort of person can best do that?

1. Someone with flexible time and mobility.

2. Someone who communicates promptly.

3. Someone for whom our cause strikes a chord.

4. Someone willing to start over and learn something new.

I always think Prajnya is a good fit for people in their forties, seeking to re-enter the workplace, but not necessarily in need of paid work. You have education, skills, mobility and life-experience. You may enjoy working with us.

What skills do we need? All skills. We often tell people who visit: Prajnya is like an Indian wedding. People come and go. Pick up the work in front of you so it gets done–folding clothes, putting away newspapers, whatever. Give yourself and us the time to discover what is your niche, the responsibility you can undertake most comfortably. And be prepared to be called out for everything–particularly at programmes, it’s all hands on deck.

If you are around, there are things we can imagine doing because you’re there to help do them. If no one is around, we hesitate to create work. At that moment, when a volunteer organization approaches us, we have only the haziest ideas. So show up, get involved and we will know what we can hand over to you.

We do need more people right now. We need people to come in now and grow familiar with our work. Our work has grown in the last two years but our team has not. Moreover, because it’s a team of young people, we have to endure through waves of coming and going–new jobs, new studies, new marriage, new baby.

Still want to help but don’t have a long time. Don’t hesitate to email us: prajnyatrust@gmail.com. Tell us about yourself. Think in terms of skills you bring on board (can you improve our design skills?). Think of your hobbies (do you like to read? can you do reviews for us?).

This work belongs to all of us. Feel free to check in with us to see what’s there to be done.

At the end

And so, our fundraising drive closed with us far short of our target, Rs. 800,000/-. We had around 160,000/- in the account, and another Rs. 15,000/- or so expected from sales by Perch of the Ms. Meena soundtrack.

The good news is that we entered the new fiscal year better-funded than before. But it also means that we will have to raise funds separately for the 2012 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence, which is both our most high-profile and most expensive activity.

What we had not asked for was the kind of seed support that allows us to have a team that works full-time, for a living wage, and for space to house that team and some of our activities. That was too much to put together from individual donations, however generous.

We hope that at the end of this year, when you look at how we use your donations, you will feel like we were a good team to support and that we met your hopes and expectation in substantial measure. Without your support, we could do nothing at all. Thank you!

In fundraising news…

This week was marginally better… one cheque for Rs. 2000/- arrived. We know about Rs. 12500/- at least is on its way.

The terrific news about our fundraising drive is that this Rs. 100,000/- we’ve raised is mainly from individuals. This means people are looking at their household expenses, their savings, their investments and finding a few thousand here and there to put towards our work because they think these are important causes (and that we make an honest effort). This is beyond amazing!

But we now need to get a few of those slightly larger chunks that only corporate entities and foundations can afford. They too can avail of the 80G tax benefit and this is the time to do that–the coming four weeks. Would you be our advocate? Would you please help us reach people who might support us but do not know about our work?

This might help: What you enable.

Thank you so much!