Friday, September 30, 2016

Sari Love - Meenakshi Gupta talks to us about Your Saree for Dignity campaign

Hello sari-lifestylers! I am honored to introduce today's guest - Meenakshi Gupta, the co-founder of Goonj. I love each of Goonj's campaigns - well-thought out and practical, these impact people's lives in so many different ways. While you can know more about all these campaigns here, today we talk to Meenakshi about the Your Saree for Dignity campaign. About how your sari can make a difference to someone's life. How it can clothe a woman and preserve her dignity. How that sari goes beyond her clothing needs.

A note and a request: My earlier post about 5 ways to share/donate a sari sparked off some interesting discussions on certain forums. About whether one should give a new sari or a gently-used one. I gather, some of you may want to only give brand new saris and that's applause-worthy. But let that not stop us from sharing and giving from within our current stash of saris, considering that each sari that we donate can actually make a difference to another woman's clothing needs.

Just imagine, if all of us shared even 1 gently-used (or new, if that's what you'd like to buy and donate) sari, how many women we'd be able to help through this simple gift. #share1saripact

The organisations I mentioned in the blog post happily accept gently-used saris. Gently-used would be saris that you've loved and worn for a while. Saris that aren't threadbare and torn. Saris that are clean and washed. If you're still wondering whether to give a new or gently-used sari, feel free to contact any of the organisations and ask what they'd like.

Here's our conversation with Meenakshi Gupta.

Why is Goonj collecting saris?

Meenakshi:  Sarees is an integral part of women wear in rural India. Even though urban India has slowly transformed to a suit salwar duppatta or western wear etc. rural India is still closely attached to this distinctly India garment. The reality around sarees is that- Typically in far flung deep interiors of rural India women still survive on 2-3 sarees. Like in urban India most rural women tend to put their own needs, whether cloth, food, health education, as a last priority so sarees for themselves don’t really come up as priority. Talking about clothes.. women tend to use even what they have in terms of last shreds of sarees, petticoats, blouses to address the most basic monthly need of menses.

Please give me an overview of this campaign and how do you think it will impact women.

Meenakshi: Women in rural India still live a life bound by a lot of traditions and customs thus their attire, unlike urban Indian women is slow to change. Thus a big part of rural India still wears sarees unlike urban India. Whenever we talk of reaching out clothing for women in rural India we find that in many regions women still wear sarees or the traditional attire of the place. The big gap in clothing for women comes up because women in urban India are more into wearing salwar suits, skirts or western wear. Thus obviously that’s what they are discarding and contributing to Goonj as well. Sarees in cities has largely become occasional wear and thus the wear and tear is much less. As a result the giving of sarees is also infrequent. While its true that many women in cities are now contributing sarees but in comparison to the demand and need of rural India this is minuscule. As a result many a times we have to buy sarees to fill this gap. That’s why we started this campaign about sarees asking urban women  to think of her sari as a symbol of dignity and self respect for another..

Would you have a personal story or two to share, based on what you’ve observed about poverty and the lack of proper clothing, and how the gift of a saree has impacted their life?

Meenakshi: Cloth is commonly used by women in rural India as a sanitary pad and most often the little cloth they have is some old saree, blouse or petticoat pieces.

One example of what a saree means is that in many disasters where women traditionally wore sarees like Bihar, south India, we notice that even though they lose everything in a disaster it’s very difficult for them to wear a suit etc in dire need because they feel embarrassed wearing something they have never worn.. Women in such situations prefer wearing the one saree they have over changing into a salwar suit given to them even as disaster relief. We also come across many cases in rural India where buying sarees and other clothes for a daughter’s wedding is a big burden on the parents who struggle for the basics in their life. There are many cases still of people in rural India, taking loans for buying new clothes on festivals and special occasions and because of their meager earnings and big interest, are not able to pay back..

What kind of sarees would you like people to donate?

Meenakshi: Women in rural India wear cotton/semi cotton sarees but for formal occasions like marriages synthetic and mixed material sarees are also used commonly.

Where can they send them to?

Meenakshi: Please look up for a list of Goonj dropping centers in many cities, where you can contribute your sarees. If you don’t live in any of these cities, you can send us a courier or better still organize a saree collection drive in your office, residential area etc. and then send a big consignment of sarees to the nearest Goonj office. Do write to us if you plan such a collection drive, we could help you and guide around you apart from sharing communication material etc.

Please share a contact number + email id that people can access if they want to know more or start their own collection drives?

Meenakshi: Best would be if you could connect with us on or call the nearest Goonj office.. contact details of our offices are on

Is there a deadline till when people should send in their sarees or this is a continuing program?

Meenakshi: This is an ongoing work throughout the year.

Where will you distribute these sarees?

Meenakshi: These sarees will become a part of our family Kits or disaster relief kits which basically include many items including clothes for an entire family’s needs. These family packs are reached out as part of our cloth for work initiative, in which   rural communities identify and work on their own local problem/issue like a broken road, digging up a well due to water scarcity etc. and in return for the efforts they receive these kits with dignity and self respect rather than as charity. Our work is spread out to parts of 21 states where we take up cloth for work initiative and reach out family kits.

How can someone start a collection drive for sarees – what kind of information should we share?

Meenakshi: Please connect with us before organizing a collection drive and we will guide around how to organize a collection drive as well as share communication material to help you publicize the drive.

If you are doing a drive in any city where Goonj has an office, then we explore a pick up based on the quantity of material collected but if you are in a city where Goonj doesn’t have an office the best way would be to courier your saree to the nearest Goonj office.

Anything that you’d like to add?
Meenakshi:  Saree is a attire but also a symbol of a woman’s dignity.. It signifies a certain tradition and culture for many women. When you look at your collection of sarees just sitting there in a box, think of all the women whose days would be more dignified and full of self respect with a nice saree. Getting a new saree is no less than a celebration for a woman.. imagine the joy your saree lying idle in your home can bring to another..

So, are you with us as we share a sari this season to help someone? If yes, let us know how you plan to help with your saris. #share1saripact

Hope over to our Facebook Page for regular updates.

#sarilove #saristyle #donateasari


  1. Thanks for the informative article ... I have a lot of things which i can give as a Family Pack and now i know where i can give them ... only i have to get to Kolkata as my luggage is lying there ....

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