We live in a society that claims to accept every person irrespective of their caste, race, gender, religion, and in some cases, their physical and mental well-being. We often say that we treat every single person equally, but deep down, we know that there are times when we pull ourselves back from some social settings. Treating every person the same is essential to have a positive society and peace and harmony among people.
However, there are times when we come across a situation where we have to face children or a person with any disabilities and medical conditions, and we find ourselves acting weirdly. This proves that we are not comfortable in every environment, and this doesn’t seem right on our part. There are children with disabilities and medical conditions who face numerous pains and struggles in their daily lives, but the parents face more struggles too.
The joy of becoming a parent fades quickly as the stereotypes, social stigmas, and visits to hospitals and other systems start affecting their lives. It becomes difficult for parents to manage their jobs when their children have some complex health needs and the challenges increase in our society that controls the motherhood without offering the things that are needed by women to move forward in personal and professional lives. But to change this and create a more empathic world, Shweta Verma and Jamal Siddiqui decided to start their enterprise – Ginny’s Planet.
With a Ph.D. in Social Work and 17 years of work experience in the field of disability rights and mental health. With her interests in trying out new ways to build a world that accepts every person no matter how they are. She has been working as a social work professional since 2002 with Saarthak, and it has helped her understand the issues and stay committed to the problems of mental health and disability rights.
Her other work includes teaching and supervising the Department of Social Work in DU, her doctoral research with women widowed due to conflict in Kashmir, short assignment in Myanmar, and her association with organizations like Saarthak, AADI, Dhanak and others are valuable experiences for her in her journey. She is also part of a 2019 cohort SSE India’s Fellowship Programme for Social Entrepreneurs.
Currently working as the director of operations and with his 16 years of experience in social work as a professional is helpful for Ginny’s Planet. He has worked with many diverse international organizations and his interest in creative fields. He has developed documentaries, public service advertisements, behavior change communication aids, and campaigns. Fellow of 2019 cohort of the India Inclusion Fellowship Program, and he is also an alumnus of the Aritra Leadership Acceleration Program organized by IIM-Bangalore and Phicus.
What is Ginny’s Planet?
Ginny’s Planet is on a mission to make this world a better place where no one is considered as an odd-one-out based on any differences. Disabilities are also part of human diversities, imperfections are part of our lives, and everyone should get equal opportunities to flourish. They have introduced Ginny, a young girl who has a radial club hand and vision problems and is the lead character of their storybooks.
Using dolls/action figures, games, and diversity training workshops is how they build a network to enlighten people about the ongoing struggles and to those who respect diversity and are future decision-makers and leaders. They want to change the conversations that take place around disability, congenital problems, and other forms of human diversity. Here are some more details on the tools and customized training methods that they offer on empathy and embracing diversity:
- Empathy and diversity training for children
- Customized training integrating compassion and respect for human diversity for adults and organizations
- Using dolls, action figures, and books where Ginny plays a lead role in the books (this help to make children understand that diversity is all around us and that people with disabilities are part of it)
- Games that are under development stage and products that can be used by children/people with or without disabilities.
- Products for people who want to gift socially conscious ways
The roadblocks in their journey
Every startup faces some challenges in its initial days as well as during its run, and Ginny’s Planet also faced the same problems. They had the support of their friends and family, and many people from their network also contributed to the fundraiser as they started. Theis help from people helped them work on their products and offerings for the initial three months.
They faced several challenges in their journey, which are:
- People show interest in the startup, but they fail to convert it into revenue as the price of products is high. The price is high because these products are handmade by a third party for them.
- Schools and people find it a challenge to take up the training because of the payments attached to them.
- They individually have a lot of experience in the social work field, but Ginny’s Planet is yet to make its mark in the area.
- Their products need creativity, and they need people for that work, but limited funds are becoming a problem for them.
- Through reviews, they found out that their training themes are not of interest to MSMEs and corporates who focus on products and deadlines.
Ginny’s Planet and its ‘solar’ system
In conversation with TimesNext, Shweta tells us about their collaborations with other organizations, and these are:
1. AADI: An NGO working on rights and issues of disability in Haryana and Delhi, and they are vendors of some of the products used by Ginny’s Planet.
2. Skill Council for Persons With Disabilities (SCPwD): Based in Delhi, they are sharing their training techniques with them for any future collaborations.
3. Change Station Social Foundation: Based in Bihar and work with children with the help of their playschools and products by Ginny’s Planet are used in their playschools.
4. Alter Notes Press: The first books were co-published by them and help them focus on the story design and finalization.
Some other enterprises with which they work are Svatanya (Delhi), Kaitley (Lucknow), Uboontu Foundation (Delhi).
The first milestone for their startup
Registered in April 2019, the first milestone for the organization was when Shweta joined the SSE India’s Fellowship Programme in April 2019. The second milestone for them was when the fundraiser was launched, and these two things have helped them in the initial three months.
The idea turned into reality when:
- Doll Ginny was under production at Svatanya and launched for sale
- October also finalized the first storybook that was launched this year
- Training at Heritage Xperiential School in Gurugram was the first training they carried out with children
The current growth of the company
Starting their operations in June with working capital of 2 lakhs, in the first six months they were able to:
- Generate revenue amounting to 2.5 lakhs with majority share coming from product sale.
- Customize workshops and orientations for 75 children in school, Oriented students from Grade 6 and Grade 8 on the right to play, and other social issues.
- Conducted training for 30 employees on disability as diversity in a corporate company.
- Interacting with around 100 children through conversations and quiz at a stall in the program – “Balika Utsav” celebrating the girl child.
- Set up Diwali Mela stall and sales at three locations in Delhi; raised three lakhs through a crowdfunding campaign.
Vision for Ginny’s Planet
Ginny’s Planet aims to reach out to masses with the help of their videos, information material, stories, and dolls. Along with this, they also want to help with their training, publishing, dolls, and stories; they want to create a vast network of awareness. They wish to build the future decision-makers who begin a conversation with “how can we work together” instead of worrying about how differences can become barriers.