Zarina Screwvala is the managing trustee of Swades Foundation, an organisation dedicated to uplift rural India. She founded the organisation along with her husband Ronnie Screwvala. Having moved to India from the US at the age of 8, she finished her schooling from J.B. Petit School for Girls, and also received her Bachelor’s degree from Xavier’s Institute of Communications. She started her career as a production manager for a play that was produced by the renowned theatre artist Pearl Padamsee. In 1990, she co-founded UTV with Ronnie and their business partner Deven Khote, which showcased the first-ever reality show in India, Saanp Seedi in 1992. In 2004, Zarina and Ronnie launched UTV’s CSR wing called Society to Heal, Aid, Restore, Educate (SHARE) to empower lives across villages in Maharashtra. In 2012, SHARE was re-launched as Swades Foundation, which is fully dedicated to rural empowerment in the Raigad and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra.

Zarina, evident from her foundation’s goal, brings stories from rural India and how Swades is empowering people in these places. She shares anecdotes from their journey through the villages in Maharashtra, and how they have enabled communities to get access to water, healthcare, education, sanitation and livelihood. She also highlights how they went from door-to-door to talk to village development committees (VDCs) while also educating them about sustainability. They did this through a number of group activities, plays, games and video shows. She also recalls some of the women micro-entrepreneurs in Raigad, Maharashtra who were facing issues, but turned their situation around with a self-help group visioned to empower the village. They formed a VDC “that not only worked towards the growth of the village but also built enough trust and unity in families of the village.” “I have realised that every woman you meet in rural India can inspire with their ability to face and fight through their challenges. Their ability to smile through their difficulties is something we can all learn from.”

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