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In Conversation With Hasina Kharbhih, CEO Impulse

Nirmala Garimella

Meeting Hasina Kharbhih, a native of Meghalaya known for her pioneering work in child trafficking and HIV/AIDS in Boston recently, one is struck immediately by her courage, determination and passion in what she does.  A social entrepreneur with a management background, Hasina Kharbhih is a Founder, President, and presently Team Leader of Impulse NGO Network, a social organization working on issues of child trafficking, HIV/AIDS intervention, and livelihood support initiatives for rural Northeast India.  From 2004 to 2007, she served as a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador for Positive Living representing India, and now is an active member of the organization’s alumni.  In 2006, she was featured as a ‘Yuva Star’ or ‘Young Achiever’ for the BBC World Service Trust’s award-winning production of “Haath Se Haath Milaa” (“Let’s Join Hands”), India’s largest HIV/AIDS awareness mass media campaign that reached over 50 million viewers. Hasina was in Boston at the invitation of World Boston as a Gold Star International Visitor Leadership Program Alumna sharing her experiences and efforts of her organization. I met her at an informal dinner hosted at the home of Farida and Imtiaz Kathawalla, in Belmont.

How did Impulse NGO network come about?

In the early 90’s I was working for local communities in Shillong when I began to notice the disappearance of young girls from the villages. We soon discovered that it was prevalent throughout the hundreds of villages and rural areas of Northeastern India—child and human trafficking. Extreme poverty, no sustainable livelihood, and a ban on bamboo and forest products by the government had forced many to be lured by illegal agents with a promise of gainful employment to other states. So a few of us  quickly got involved—we began to research the problem  and began a massive email and letter campaign to organizations throughout the North East and the country to begin a network of alliances committed to addressing the problem. This became the Impulse NGO network.

As a Ashoka fellow you created what is called the Meglayala model  to deal with child trafficking? Can you elaborate?

The Meghalaya Model addresses the issue of child trafficking and consists of a comprehensive tracking system that brings together the state government, police, legal support, the media, and NGO’s working  together to bring about systemic change.  Pilot testing of the model in the state of Meghalaya successfully verified its effectiveness in combating child trafficking. The model incorporates a large number of knowledge products including advocacy and training manuals, toolkits, and standard operating procedures for coordinated execution of the four ‘Ps’ (Prevention, Protection, Policing, and Prosecution) and the three ‘Rs’ (Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Repatriation) by law enforcement agencies and civil society. We are now implementing the model in eight states with partner organizations.

The element that truly won me over was not one I was expecting: the rubber strap. At 20 grams, it matches the lightness of the case and reinforces the feeling of not even wearing a replica breitling chronoliner b04 boutique edition watch, something I deeply enjoyed in steamy New York. The tang buckle is also made in Breitlight, with an imprinted logo, always a nice touch. However, it is truly the embossed scales that made me smile, in remembrance of the supercool Breitling Compass reference 80940, produced between 1984 and 1986. Both watches feature useful scales imprinted on the rubber – an inches/centimeters conversion in the lower part of the Skyracer strap, while the top one shows a centimeters to kilometers conversion scale for maps. The all-black look of the Replica Breitling Skyracer also evokes the PVD cases of the aforementioned 1980s Compass, Maritime, and Colt models.

You also started an Impulse social enterprise to provide livelihood to tribal communities in the North east. Why?

Yes, in 2008, I decided to make the livelihood part of this initiative into a ‘for profit’ model for the affected communities. This encouraged the tribal communities to harness their local talent and trade in weaving, bamboo making and textile and become independent entrepreneurs helping them move away from the dangers of exploitation. We now have an Impulse 2 Empower line of products that includes scarves, bags, blankets, dining mats and textile designs that are native to the region. We hope this will help not only preserve the heritage of these traditional crafts but also provide them the much needed self-respect and independence.

 As a women social entrepreneur can you share some qualities that you think are essential for a task such as the one you have taken?

I strongly believe in the vision of Impulse. After giving eighteen years of my life to it, I am finally able to see results. I see more people engage in the process. We have put systems in place and formalized its structure. As a social entrepreneur you define yourself with the work that you do, believing that at the end of the day you are contributing to its growth and success. It is a continued task and one needs to keep going. Just like in a marriage, you and your partner are committed to each other to make it work; it is the same with a social entrepreneur. The ability to believe in it and that change is possible remains my primary focus.

If someone would like to volunteer for your organization what is the best way to do it ?

We would certainly welcome it. We encourage young men and women to get involved in ISE. If you are interested in community development do get in touch with us. Your support will help the unsafe migration of these communities as well as help combat child and human trafficking.

To know  more click on the following links:

For Impulse Social Enterprises www.impulsesocialenterprises.com (for profit enterprises)

For Impulse NGO Network www.impulseasia.org (non profit organization)

Her personal website www.hasinakharbhih.com

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