The company of women: Social startup AFH motivates young women to enter in workforce after facing adversity

Aspire For Her’s #NotAlone campaign aims to help women impacted by the loss of the earning member to Covid

Published: 27th June 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th June 2021 04:02 PM   |  A+A-

Madhura Dasgupta Sinha, founder and CEO of AFH

Madhura Dasgupta Sinha, founder and CEO of AFH

God is not fair, I don’t want to live…” the message popped up on Rashmi Lamba’s WhatsApp. Lamba, a mentor on Aspire For Her (AFH) programme knew that it was from 32-year-old Asha Nath (name changed) and was not be ignored. Nath had lost her husband last month and was left alone to fend for their three-year-old daughter.

“Right away, we had a Grief Counsellor on board who called Nath and gently brought her back from the brink,” recalls Lamba. AFH is a social startup that motivates young women to enter and stay in the workforce after facing adversity. Since Nath’s husband used to handle outside matters for the family, she had no idea about banking matters—AFH mentors stepped in to help. They are now coaching her for job interviews. Fifteen days after she sent the desperate SOS, Nath is connected to three organisations, through which she hopes to get employed.

Madhura Dasgupta Sinha, founder and CEO of AFH, launched the #NotAlone initiative in May to support women impacted by the loss of the earning member of the house to Covid-19. “Statistics reflect that more men than women have died from Covid. We decided to create a community of mentors to support such women,” says Sinha, a former banker with 25 years of experience. India ranks 151 in a list of 156 countries in terms of economic participation and empowerment of women. This revelation prompted Sinha to give up her successful corporate career and start AFH on Women’s Day, last year. The community currently has over 50,000 members across 60 countries and a network of 100 accomplished mentors.

“We are conscious that each woman who has signed up with #NotAlone has reposed faith in us, even though she probably feels betrayed by everyone else, including her loved one who left her behind. We cannot let her down,” says Reema Sen, co-founder, AFH & Lead-#NotAlone. The initiative is a godsend for women like Pinky, who lost her husband last month, 27 days after her daughter’s first birthday. With no time to grieve, Pinky is attending career preview sessions and workshops organised by AFH and learning the nuances of Python and PowerPoint in a Zoom room full of hope.

“Each woman has her own set of requirements. She is not an entry in a database. She is in a very fragile state. While some need counselling, others need help with getting upskilling, claiming their rightful assets, or even assistance for alternative accommodation. They need an anchor who will provide them with the safe space to grieve and be themselves,” says Sinha. AFH is the light at the end of the tunnel for such women.

The platform acts as the much-needed anchor/friend that a woman needs at her most vulnerable. The ‘anchor’ remains in touch with her throughout the programme and connects her back to community resources. The ‘anchors’ are the first ones to spot high-risk cases that require immediate interventions, highlight any special requirements and actively engage with the community to help impacted women. Besides, grief-counselling sessions also go a long way. Led by experienced and professional practitioners, women are encouraged to share their grief in a ‘safe space’. The first such session was held on June 6.

Polly Mullick, a 33-year-old woman with a one-year-old daughter, recently lost her husband to Covid. He was the sole earning member of the family. She came across AFH while browsing online. Mullick says, “The forum has not just supported me emotionally, it has also shown me how women can empower themselves. They helped me realise how important it is to be financially independent. I’m #NotAlone in my time of need.”

AFH is now setting up a new vertical—EntrepreNaari. It is partnering with Project Naveli (founded by Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter, Navya Naveli Nanda) to start a community dedicated to women aspiring to be in entrepreneurship. It will help the organisation in its vision of adding one million women to the workforce by 2025. “The overwhelming response from our members and supporters has only strengthened our resolve to make women more employable and build the entrepreneurial mindset. AFH is the bridge between aspiration and economic agency. Women leaders and youngsters are getting together in this multi-generational community to make a difference,” says Sinha. Each of these stories is about courage, conviction and resilience, and that is what AFH’s #NotAlone campaign espouses.

Make a Difference
Currently, AFH #NotAlone is a pro-bono programme. To make it sustainable over a longer period of time and cater to a larger group of women, they are inviting corporates and foundations to join them as ‘Empathy Partners’.
Volunteer/Register @
Phone/WhatsApp: +91 74937 78157

The community currently has over 50,000 members across 60 countries and a network of 100 accomplished mentors


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