Field Advisor Spotlight: Saveetha Meganathan

Being that Give2Asia works with a slew of highly qualified field advisors in 25 countries, we will be creating profile pieces on one field advisor per country. The intent is to provide on-the-ground insight into each local scene, in addition to interesting projects that have been accomplished or are currently underway. The profile pieces will also present the opportunity to spotlight our local partners - the field advisors - and their interests and accomplishments in your professional and personal lives. We'll continue our spotlight series with Saveetha Meganathan, our field advisor in India.

Saveetha visiting the Gond Community of Kalahandi District, Orissa

Saveetha visiting the Gond Community of Kalahandi District, Orissa

1. Where do you live?

I have lived in Bangalore for the last two years and I've also lived in many urban and rural places across the country.

2. How many languages do you speak?

I speak English, Tamil and Hindi fluently and have functional knowledge of Kannada, Telugu, Marathi and Malayalam.

3. What is your favorite food?

At the moment, I like Korean food, especially kimbap and kimchi. Prior to my fascination with Korean food, sushi was on the top of my list.

4. Where have you travelled to in India (or Asia)?

I have lived and traveled widely across India. I was born in Chennai, lived in Bombay when I was studying for my postgraduate degree, and Delhi when I attended University for my PhD. Outside of India, I lived in Hong Kong for a month and traveled to China and Malaysia. I have done an extensive road trip along the East coast in U.S and have spent two winters in Europe traveling across the EU.

5. What do you do when you’re not working for G2A?

Presently, I'm converting my PhD thesis into a book and writing another academic book.

6. Please tell us more about your career path in the social sector?

I have a professional degree in social work with specialization in Community Organization and Development practice and Rural Development, Environment and Sustainable Livelihoods. After obtaining my professional training in social work I worked for about three years in a funding organization focusing on public health, during which I travelled and worked with grantee organizations in the states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Post which, I got a fellowship under the “SUM MEDIC” project from the University of Oslo to do my PhD in Sociology that entails an ethnography of the Khoya community. I have conducted several independent research and evaluation projects in the social sector and have lived for short periods in the rural areas of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

7. Why did you join Give2Asia?

I have predominantly worked in the funding sector and was familiar with the Due Diligence processes. My role as a field advisor is enriching because it gives me a chance to work with more than 150 NGOs across India.

8. What is your favorite Give2Asia project and why?

Since I started working with Give2Asia I have been closely associated with several projects and it would be hard to pick one. During the recent Chennai floods, we worked closely with a few organizations on disaster relief and rehabilitation and it has helped me build some great partnerships with the grantees.

Saveetha attending a Panchayat meeting

Saveetha attending a Panchayat meeting

9. What are the greatest challenges nonprofits in India face?

Unfortunately, there is a condescending perspective when it comes to philanthropy and nonprofit work in India. For many, it seems as if philanthropy involves the handing down of charity to the disadvantaged and marginalized people by the donors. There is a struggle by many in the social sector to promote a rights-based perspective, by which people have the right to decide on their development pathways and it is in their interests that development projects should be envisaged and ethically executed.

10. How do you see the social sector in India changing in the next 10 years?

With the corporate social responsibility bill in place, one can see enormous potential for NGOs to raise funds in an innovative manner. Also, India is a vibrant democracy and the social sector plays a key role in empowering the disadvantaged and marginalized communities to become more aware of their constitutional rights and bring about a positive impact in governance systems.

11. What is one thing Give2Asia’s community of donors and grantees should know about the social sector in India?

The social sector in India is not homogenous. It is very important to understand the context, respect ‘difference’ and place the beneficiaries central to the development projects and work ethically.