One of the greatest things about my job is getting to meet some of the nonprofits we work with here at Aplos and hear all about their stories. When Sherry Naron, founder of Rescue Pink, told me the origin story of how her nonprofit was formed — I was in awe. Not only was her mission powerful, it was truly inspirational as I learned all about the struggles that Rescue Pink had to overcome.
Take a journey with me through Rescue Pink’s story below and learn what advice Sherry has to share with other nonprofits.
Q: What problems were you hoping to solve when you started your nonprofit?
A: As I traveled over India, I knew of the dowry system (how the families of girls had to give large sums of money to the family of the males in order to be married). I saw where women were treated as property and was made aware of the issues of child marriage and sex trafficking. But, it wasn’t until I started digging into the reasons WHY these things were happening that I found out about female infanticide and how there were over 50 million missing girls in India. Rural families keep having children, trying to conceive boys (it’s sort of equivalent to hitting the lottery). So families can’t afford dowries for their girls, and preference to medical treatment and education go to boys because of the healthier and more educated they are, they will receive a much higher dowry. Often the families would decide that instead of letting their baby girl suffer and eventually die from malnutrition or health issues, to instead kill her at birth to avoid her long suffering. So many baby girls are killed at birth, and this has created a massive shortage of girls in India. Because of this, there aren’t enough girls in the marriable age group, so many men marry the next generation of girls who are sometimes 9, 10, 11, and 12 years old. Historically when there are a shortage of women there is a high tendency to see violence towards women, and then sex trafficking will become a dominant issue. We are already seeing both of these problems in epic proportions in India. I wanted to do what I could to help combat these issues and rescue as many baby girls as we possibly could.
Q: What are the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome?
A: At first we thought we could try to fight the issue of dowry. Technically it is illegal in India but it’s not enforced. But once we started working with the people, we realized that it would most likely never go away. No matter how many girls a family might have, they still strongly desire a boy so they can receive money. We knew we couldn’t fight this losing battle so we had to figure out ways to work with it. Secondly, the work we wanted to do was to help empower women to take care of their girls and that is very hard to do in India, as women aren’t regarded as anyone with any rights whatsoever. We even had to work with the rural banks getting them prepared for so many women to come in wanting bank accounts and to start their own businesses.
Q: Who inspired you to start your nonprofit?
A: I had a friend who was doing this rescue work in India. One afternoon I sat in his orphanage holding baby girls that would have been dead had he not rescued them. I knew that moment that I was to be a part of this work. Shortly after I returned home to the States, he passed away from Malaria and I was devastated that his work wouldn’t carry on. It took me awhile to get to the point where I could do it, but eventually I decided that I had to do my part. This meant even if we only rescued one, it meant life for at least that one.
Q: What advice would you share with other nonprofits?
A: If we work hard towards providing self-sustainable ways to help empower people — to help themselves — you’ll have a higher chance at success. My advice would be to always be looking for creating sustainability instead of dependence. Sure, it takes some start-up money, but work quickly to have that money be turned loose by sustainability so you can turn around and do it again, and again helping more and more!
Q: What do you look for in leadership when bringing in others on your team?
A: We look for self-starters, people who are self-motivated. Those that aren’t passionate, just talk to talk. But those that actually work hard at getting things done, knowing all the while that even those menial tasks are the ones that help rescue girls.