Stories | GOONJ..a voice, an effort

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GOONJ.. wins the prestigious Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award            In New York Times:Bridging the clothing divide            Not Just a piece of cloth by Tehelka


Turning old material into resource: some impact stories from rural India.


  • Pond cleaning & recharge – village Churali, Orissa

Villagers decided to clean up the village pond; their only source of water for the entire year. More than 500 people got clothes under the ‘Cloth for Work’ initiative. The best part is that now the people are actively involved in keeping the water body and their village clean.

  • Making a bridge- village Sukhasan, Bihar

When a 240 ft x 6 ft bamboo bridge got made on river Sukhsar simply with material as motivation, it was a first for GOONJ and a moment of huge elation for the villagers who got involved in its making. No money involved voluntary labor by the villagers, under Cloth for Work. The bridge connects many villages now. It motivated many other villages to take up similar initiatives.

  • Land bunding :  Khandwa, M.P.

Khandwa is infamous for severe mal-nutrition among its children. A problem further aggravated by vast stretches of land not fit for farming. Under the Cloth for Work initiative the villagers got into a large scale activity of removing stones from their fields and using these to create bunds in their fields… As a result not only did they get essential clothes and other material, their yield suddenly went up, addressing a critical issue in the process.


  • Drainage cleaning: Muzaffurpur, Bihar;

Sanitation is highlighted as one of the Millennium goals by the UN, a small village decided to take the matter in its own hands. Under GOONJ’s Cloth for Work initiative the local villagers decided to clean up the entire drainage system of their own village… Just goes to show that material can be used as a powerful resource for addressing many small and big issues.

  • A well dug up; village Salidhana, MP- In a land of malnutrition and extreme poverty, paucity of water only adds to the woes of the largely tribal population here. A classic case study of Shram-daan (voluntary labor) was seen when villagers of Salidhana decided to dig up a well for themselves, with material as their only motivation under GOONJ’s initiative Cloth for Work. A site of cheer was witnessed when ultimately in January ’09 they got water!!

  • Bamboo Bridge : Orissa – Under the Cloth for Work implementation,  35 families were  involved in the initiative. They made a Bamboo Bridge of 300 meters on River Gobri at vill. Tadapada, Dist. Kendrapada. Before, the major problem was to cross the river for Children and many incidents happened where people lost their life.

  • Turning Aanganwadis into a joyful, colorful place : Khandwa, MP.

Aaanganwadis spread across the villages of India, are the prime places where the government implements its health and welfare programmes for children but given its bare structure, its hard to get children to stay. GOONJ has, converted many Aaanganwadis across Khandwa and other places into colorful spaces; with stuffed toys, games, charts, posters etc. An Aanganwadi worker explains the impact – “Pehley bachcha aata nahi tha, ab bachcha jata nahi ”means earlier the kids didn’t come, now they don’t go!!

  • Pictures of Women sewing Sujnis out of old cloth; a source of employment and income for the poorest families.

Sujni is a household product in rural India, used as a blanket in winters & as a mattress in summers. As GOONJ involves hundreds of women across states in making Sujnis as a part of its livelihood initiatives, now many women have a regular source of income and tones of wastage does not create an environment hazard !!

  • Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, M.P, West Bengal and many other states; Thousands of women are finding a better alternative to address their basic but highly taboo and neglected need of clean cloth for use as sanitary pads during menses

Producing more than 1,50,000 sanitary pads a month, GOONJ reaches these cloth napkins to parts of 21 states of India, making women aware about the health and hygiene issues. Wanting to turn into a viable income generation activity for these women, GOONJ also teaches them how to make these pads on their own, so they don’t have to depend on anyone !!

  • Bihar, West Bengal; Stitching and Training center for women’s employment generation.

Using the waste cloth generated from the cities; things like torn jeans and other thick cloth material whether its bed sheets or curtains is channelised to some villages where women are learning stitching on sewing machines at a GOONJ training center. Apart from giving these unemployed women employment and income the work helps channelise vast quantities of waste and un-wearable cloth. In West Bengal women and young girls are also creating beautiful dresses out of the over sized clothes and cloth pieces that we receive. Encouraged by this GOONJ has initiated a special campaign to collect old sewing machines lying unused in urban homes, to initiate more such centers. The most tangible result is hundreds of school kids with new trendy village produced bags!!

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