One small flight for Aarti… a giant leap for womankind


    May 13, 2019


    A heartwarming airport reunion causes Prajna Khanna, our Head of CSR, to reflect on the real-world impacts of the Dharma Life initiative


    As I hauled my bags onto the scanning belt at the security at Lucknow airport, I heard someone call out my name from the back of the line.


    It was a work trip, visiting the operations of Dharma Life, our partner in Uttar Pradesh, so I wasn’t expecting to bump into anyone I knew.  I turned around to big smiles from Aarti, one of the Dharma Life Entrepreneurs, who was accompanied by her husband Rajeev. And they were on my flight!


    “It’s our first flight ever,” Aarti told me, as we caught up on the other side of security. She was going to represent Dharma Life at a forum in Delhi with her husband. Dharma Life, an initiative co-sponsored by Signify, provides solar lantern libraries for rural communities that are off-the-grid.

    It also trains entrepreneurs who sell solar lanterns to earn income and develop their entrepreneurial skills. Aarti is one such individual, and the fact that she was representing Dharma Life at a public forum told me that she had flourished in the program.


    And the big nervous smiles on their faces let me know that this was an impressive and exciting milestone for the two of them.

    A change begins

    Two years ago, Aarti, like many other women from small rural communities in North India, was seldom seen and never heard. A sheltered wife, daughter-in-law and mother, she would never leave her home unaccompanied or talk to a stranger.


    However, there was a spark inside. That spark was ignited when a Dharma Life recruiter came by to present the opportunity to be trained as an entrepreneur, delivering multiple services and products through consultative sales to her village and beyond.


    Hesitant to break family norms, it was the encouragement of her husband that helped her stand up to all the opposition she faced both from within the family and the other villagers. The training equipped her to answer tough questions, find her voice and use it to not just raise awareness on controversial and taboo subjects like menstrual hygiene but also to sell products and contribute to the family income.


    What is impact?

    We’ve just funded a ‘results-based financing’ pilot at Dharma Life, which anchors on accurate measurement of impact of a specific input/ intervention. My colleagues will know that impact indicators typically focus on quantitative metrics like difference in income, purchasing power etc.


    However, the real effect is much harder to quantify in measurable metrics, but far more meaningful and long-term; true impact is what I was witnessing there at the airport.


    And I smile when I think of Aarti’s daughter, who has seen this complete transformation of her mother. A woman who was once silently housebound, who now travels from village to village unaccompanied. An independent woman with a strong voice, both literally and metaphorically. In the home and outside of it.


    This little girl’s world is now full of real possibilities that she couldn’t even have imagined before.


    That to me is the real significance. One that will trigger greater societal transformation that we can only hope for, let alone measure!

    About the author:

    Prajna Khanna
    Prajna Khanna

    Head of CSR at Signify

    For further information, please contact:

    Head of Corporate Content, Signify
    Neil Pattie
    Tel: + 31 6 15 08 48 17

    About Signify


    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals, consumers and the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. In 2023, we had sales of EUR 6.7 billion, approximately 32,000 employees and a presence in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We have been in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since our IPO for seven consecutive years and have achieved the EcoVadis Platinum rating for four consecutive years, placing Signify in the top one percent of companies assessed. News from Signify can be found in the Newsroom, on X, LinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors is located on the Investor Relations page.

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