How far can Rs. 3 lakh go?

It’s fundraising time for the 2016 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign! We’re back after two years to remind you that you have been a staunch supporter of our public education work to create awareness about gender violence, its prevention and available remedies. It’s time again to express that support.

And thank you in advance!

Bills, backbones, basics: Would you please help?

The backbone of an organisation is its administration–the people who do the maintenance and compliance work of tracking its books, vouchers, receipts and ledgers; the people who make xerox copies and the people who keep its spaces clean. At a certain point in its growth, the administrative cost of an organisation includes that space–rent, maintenance, desks, ink, paper and utilities. And although these do not make up the public profile of the organisation, they are what make that profile possible. 

At Prajnya, we could not hold the poetry readings and the campaigns and the training sessions without the back-up of the office, where our handouts are printed and sorted, where our programme materials are assembled and where we meet to make plans and execute them. We could not seek support for this work without someone to write the receipts and deposit the cheques and keep track of our expenses.

Each year, that now costs us around Rs. 300,000 (or 4000 Euro or 4500 USD). Each year, we need to raise it afresh. 

If you would like to help us pay these everyday bills, you can find information on making a donation here. For your convenience, that information is copied here:

The Prajnya Trust was registered under section 12AA of the Income Tax Act 1961 (695/06-07). The Prajnya Trust PAN is AABTT4334M.

Donations to Prajnya now 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.

Please note: 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 not able to accept donations of any sort from non-Indian individuals or organizations. If you hold an Indian passport, however, you can donate no matter where you live, PROVIDED you also scan and send a copy of the first page of your passport.

The Home Ministry clarifies this:

“Contributions made by a citizen of India living in another country (i.e., Non-Resident Indian), from his personal savings,through the normal banking channels, is not treated as foreign contribution. However, while accepting any donations from such NRI, it is advisable to obtain his passport details to ascertain that he/she is an Indian passport holder.”

See also this blogpost on the same subject.


You can send a cheque or DD (drawn on Chennai) payable to “The Prajnya Trust” to our registered office address. Email us for the address, please.

Details for electronic transfer:
Account name: The Prajnya Trust
Bank & branch: HDFC Bank, T.Nagar, Chennai 600 017
Account number: 02062560002557


Please email us to inform us of your donation, donation date, amount and transaction details.

We prefer not to accept cash donations; however, we do not rule them out altogether.

Invitation to Vasundhara, a special circle of Prajnya supporters

IMG_1027The Deccan Plateau with its lava-covered surfaces forms
some of the most stable land in India.
You can give us just such a stable base from which to work.

Prajnya is seeking the Founding Members of Vasundhara,
a special circle of supporters
who hold firm the ground beneath our feet.

For eight years, Prajnya has been a team of committed volunteers holding other jobs,
working with small individual donations,
doing what we could manage at the pace we could manage.

And we’ve managed:

  • a successful 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence every year for six years;
  • scores of training sessions for gender violence awareness;
  • done almost a dozen oral history interviews;
  • curated three special photo-calls for the Prajnya Archives;
  • piloted a peace education programme;
  • created dozens of resources on gender equality and peace;
  • engaged actively on social networks as public education work;
  • interacted with thousands across Chennai on these critical issues.

But this is it. We’re at our inflection point.
Help write the trajectory of our future.

  • Will we be able to keep our promise to the community?
  • Will we be able to undertake gender violence sensitisation,
    training for policy compliance and public outreach across sectors
    commensurate with need and demand?
  • Will we be able to fulfil our research and communication mandate
    making information available to citizens who seek it?
  • Will we be able to create the synergistic partnerships
    that social change requires? 
  • Or will we turn away those who seek to work with us
    for want of human resources?

Where do we go from here?

A commitment by a dozen Vasundhara members to support us
with a gift of Rs. 100,000/- per year for three years
will allow us to hire a professional team—
will consolidate the ground beneath our feet.
So will YOU enable this journey and walk with us?

If you would like to join Vasundhara, do email (
Donations to Prajnya qualify for tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act.

Will we, won’t we? Depends on you!

It’s almost two weeks since we opened this year’s fundraising drive.

This year, we are hoping to raise just INR 300,000/- towards the cost of the 2014 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence. Much of this whatever we raise–acknowledging that we have never raised our full asking amount–goes towards the salary of the Campaign Associate/Coordinator and in the last two years, the Media Associate. Both of them work 24/7 and then some in the four weeks preceding the campaign and the campaign fortnight. Increasingly, their work stretches till the end of December, as we do more programmes that require reports and follow-up, and campaign report-writing gets more complicated with more diverse programming. Even with these two people working that hard and the couple of us that end up working full-time but honorarily with them, we are usually physical wrecks by mid-December. But selective amnesia starts to kick in and we recall the season’s buzz and start planning again almost right away, just holding ourselves back by saying, “We really should wait for the Campaign to be in place and besides, we don’t know how much money we will have.”

We end up being so tired post-campaign that we have put a “sabbatical” system in place. After every three years, we stop for a break. (Yes, I know a sabbatical happens once in seven years, but believe me, campaign years leave you exhausted as if you’ve packed the work of two years into one!)

The 2014 Campaign will be the third in our second cycle of campaigns. In this campaign, we will want to replay every idea that worked in the last two years, do it better, do it more and push for maximum impact. We will want to bring together the people we have worked with. We will want to set the agenda for the work of the sabbatical year. We will want to tie up loose ends on processes that have taken two years to gain momentum. This is an important year for us.

Next year, there will be no campaign.

And the fact is, this year too, there will be no campaign if we do not raise any money for it. And in these two weeks, we have only one donation in the till–the starter donation I made. Not just the campaign, actually, if our resource mobilization does not improve so that we can scale up if just enough to do work that’s now becoming possible, then we will have to shut our doors altogether. But that’s the subject of another blog-post.

I want to tell you–if I haven’t already–why we come to individuals for donations every year. In the beginning, it was because only our friends and families would support us. Who else would back untried, untested people trying to do something they could not guarantee would work?

Over the years, especially for the 16 Days Campaign, we have come to love the idea that the campaign happens because of a community of individuals who tell us over and over: This is important work. This cause, this work, are important to us. We appreciate your efforts and we think you should continue to make them. With each donation, this is the message we get from you. Therefore, we tell ourselves, that when you give again and again, you reaffirm your support to this cause: to end the silence around gender violence, and ultimately, the violence itself. As each donor joins this caravan for the first time, and as the caravan grows, it becomes a force that no one can resist. Individual donations matter to us, because they speak of a growing community around this cause.

People suggest to us we approach companies for sponsorship. We could, I suppose, but in the beginning, Prajnya and the campaign felt like saplings whose identity–astitva or brand–we needed to shelter and nurture. And then again, who would have sponsored us in 2008? But then, we fell in love with this idea of people choosing to be part of our journey by giving, by working with us, by sharing something they had (a skill, a network, a resource, a space), and now, I don’t want a gift to the campaign to be a financial or marketing decision. Companies do occasionally make donations to the campaign, but we know them so we know they are made from a sense of citizenship, from a commitment to equality and justice and because they have come to believe in this work. And they are gifts without strings, not sponsorship.

Moreover, it now seems so much more meaningful when people and organizations consciously join us in small ways. It’s a much bigger contribution to our work. I don’t want support for the 16 Days Campaign, in particular, to be a business decision. It must be a citizenship decision, a humanitarian decision, a justice decision–a conscious, mindful decision.

And so I sit here thinking, why have I not seen a single deposit or cheque in two weeks of a six-week fundraising drive? I can think of three reasons: donor fatigue, “bystander effect” and procrastination.

  • I think it’s absolutely fair for our older friends to feel they’ve given a lot and it’s now someone else’s turn. No argument at all. Some of our supporters have given every year since year 1, and must wonder if we will ever stop asking. Your gifts have already made so much possible that I couldn’t begin to make a list.
  • I too sometimes think when I see an appeal or a petition that what I can afford will not count and that someone else will surely make a better gift. After all, this or that organization manages to do a lot, so they must be getting money from somewhere else. I just want to clarify: we don’t. We do depend on you, but we do understand that everyone has constraints and limits as to what they can give.
  • Finally, please give today; don’t wait until the end of May because we might make all kinds of bad decisions in panic! Every gift waters the seeds of hope in our hearts! And there’s no little gift–we use everything frugally and make it stretch.

What happens if we don’t raise this money? It’s very simple. We simply won’t do the campaign this year.

Your gifts are our gauge. When you give, we read: This is a good thing to do and it would be useful to do it again this year. When you don’t give, we read: This may no longer be a useful thing to do. And it’s fine to send us that message. We will move away from the campaign and find other ways to be useful.

But do we think the campaign still has utility as an advocacy tool? We do.

  1. Every year, the campaign opens doors for us to try new issues, new frameworks, new media and formats, new partners, new resource people and most of all, new audiences. The banner of the campaign and the seasonal momentum open doors for us for year-round activity.
  2. We still come across people who are not sure that what happens to them is violence. The work of dismantling old ways of thinking remains useful and necessary. Changing that way of thinking has always been the measure we’ve offered for the effectiveness of our work, although we have never measured it–if someone listens to our programmes and goes back thinking, what has been happening to me is violence, not my destiny, we’ve been useful.
  3. In Chennai, our campaign has also been a platform that has brought together a cross-section of people with different degrees of experience and expertise in this field and given them a chance to engage with each other. Artists, social workers, lawyers, teachers, students, government servants, caregivers–our programmes try to connect people with each other.
  4. Each year, new people–as individuals or members of organizations–volunteer with the campaign, and the numbers of those who are aware and well-informed grows.

Let us know what you are thinking. This is our society, our problem; this is your campaign too.

I want to finish by thanking you for reading this, and for all your support in the past. I want to share with you once more our fundraising appeal for this year, and invite you to give and/or to share with others who might.

The first stretch is the hardest?

Week 1 of our 2013 fundraising drive just got done, and with just one donation of Rs. 1001/-: mine. That’s disappointing. We need to raise 3 lakhs (300,000 rupees).

The hardest part of my work in Prajnya is keeping the faith–that this work is worthwhile, that we will find people, that we will find financial and material support. If I lose faith, then the most important function I perform–cheerleading–lacks conviction.

In some stretches, nothing seems to work as it might. This has been such a stretch. It is clear to us we have pushed the volunteer team model to its limits. Using space at home is also limiting to everyone. And yet, moving out is not an immediate option.

With so much awareness about gender violence post-December 2012, I have wondered what is left for us to do. But there is work–there is the deepening and widening work of imparting more information and more skills. There are still serious research gaps we aspire to be able to fill.

And there is our other work. The work that actually inspired the launch of Prajnya–oral history and documentation on women’s work in the public sphere and peace education. For me, the near-comatose state of our peace education projects has been very saddening. I think, if we cannot do this work, then what work do we want to do at all?

So to find that at the end of the first week, our fundraising drive has lacked both tail-wind and momentum, makes me anxious. Very anxious.

If you missed our fundraising appeal, here it is:

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 ( 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 ( 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

Little drops of water

We are in the middle of the two-day film festival on gender violence, Our Lives… to Live. Day 1 was great, a packed hall, rapt audience, great films, old friends and new.

The highlight (for me, Swarna) was this:

A frail, elderly gentleman slowly ambled up the ramp, slightly breathless, visibly tired by the auto-journey, saying, “I have never been here before although I have been getting their invitations for years. The signboard is too small.” He then asked for some water and went to settle down in the auditorium. He had taken our brochures and gender violence handouts in with him. Three hours later he emerged, sought out Anupama and apologized for having to leave (“I can’t sit for much longer”) and said he would try to return on Day 2. Also, he would like to make a donation. He left a hundred rupee note with us.

What a precious donation! When I think of him, coming all the way by auto from Villivakkam, sitting on a ‘naarkaali’ (a chair, this one wooden) for three hours, and then going back all the way by auto… he spent almost 600 rupees surely and a whole afternoon, just to watch these films… but thought too of giving something to our work. This gift is very precious to us.

The concern, the commitment, the support we saw in him buoyed our spirits no end.

People ask: So who funds you? That’s the answer: people like him. They fund us, they encourage us and they reinforce our commitment to doing what we can, as we can, where we can.

A depressing fundraising week

This week, we received ZERO new donations. Yes, there are promises pending and at least one cheque in the mail, but especially in fundraising, a bird in the hand is worth many in the bush.

As Managing Trustee, I share credit for Prajnya’s successes but all our shortcomings are a function of my own failures. So on a morning like this, I am left asking: what more could I have done?

One route we have thought about often but never really pursued, largely because we end up being so overstretched and short of time, is to approach individuals in the corporate sector and ask for large donations. While we are a little leery of a “XYZ Pvt Ltd” sponsors Prajnya situation, we realise that our rock-solid support base of individuals cannot meet our needs. Most individual donations are in the range of 500-5000 Rs, and this goes a very long way because we are so frugal. However, having raised only 1 lakh where we need 8, we have to acknowledge that a few donations of 50K, for instance, could really help us without breaking a corporate’s back.

People who get to know us, are ready to help out. But how to get them to get to know us? This chicken-egg roundabout has me dizzy!

What we’ve learnt is that most MBA gyaan does not work for us. And fundraising tips are most suited to charity or service NGOs, not people like us. It’s been a steep learning curve but we’re learning now that it’s our story, in our voice, told our way, that gets us the most sympathetic listening and solid support. But how to get someone to give us that kind of time?

All thoughts buzzing around in my head. 😦