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NEW DELHI: Babar Afzal of J&K, was awarded the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award, 2019, by the Asian-African Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) that organized the prestigious inter-continental Leadership Forum, which consisted of a grand summit, B2B networking amongst diplomats from various countries in the two continents & industry leaders and leadership awards - conferred upon those leaders or organisations that have shown exceptional and path-breaking performance and tenacity in developing successful businesses.

Babar has been recognized for his work in promoting authentic Pashmina eco-system of J&K and the lives of the communities linked to it especially women  at the grassroots and ensuring rural livelihood. Working in the areas affected by climate change, Babar has helped shepherds, nomads, weavers, craftsmen and women of Pashmina across the villages in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. He has been encouraging and building community leaders who are coming forward to solve the problems that they are facing as a community through small initiatives. After working for over seven years with the marginalized communities, Babar got a closer view of rural realities and the communities woes after the devastating tragedy that killed 25,000 pashmina goats in J&K about seven years ago. That triggered him to change course and become a pashmina goat shepherd. Babar along with his team have now built a vibrant ecosystems to enable thousands of nomads, weavers , craftsmen and women to succeed in remote and ailing markets.

The Chief Guest for the occasion was Hon’ble Union Minister of Trade & Commerce, Govt. Of India – Shri Suresh Prabhu. Dr. GD Singh, Founder & Chairman, Asian-African Chamber of Commerce & Industry, in his opening address impressed upon the collaboration with a difference for the development of businesses in Asian & African continent. He added that this is the first of its kind open platform which amalgamates the most brilliant talents and empowers the leaders of tomorrow. Among the high profile guests were Mr. Yoo Chang Ho, Minister Counselor, Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Ben Joubert, Deputy High Commissioner, High Commission of South Africa ,  H.E. Eng Waasfi Hassan El-Sreihin, Secretary General, African-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO),  H.E. Mr. Chris Eze, High Commissioner to the Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Mr. George Mkondiwa, High Commissioner, High Commission of Malawi to India, H.E. Mr. Maxwell Ranga, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe to India. 

Babar in his address said that, this is the recognition of the skills of the community and he dedicated the award to the Shepherds, Weavers, Craftsmen and Women of authentic Pashmina Eco system. He said that this recognition will go a long way in making visible the invisible revolution that rural India is creating at the grassroots. “Government and private sector should partner with the rural communities directly and look at them as job creators and not as beneficiaries. Time has come when we look at grassroots workers and craftsmen and women as the future to revitalize our rural economy." The Pashmina Goat Project (PGP) model comprises multiple ventures. A network of self help groups; a fund for master craftsmen; a rural school of  leadership for women; and a market aggregator that provides warehousing, branding, marketing and distribution services to last-mile skilled workers. Over the last few years, PGP has had a domino effect in climate-threatened villages across the region and thousands of craftsmen and women have come under the umbrella of this movement of Babar Afzal.

This Award brings some of the most remarkable change makers from Asia onto a common platform. These social entrepreneurs are promising change makers and self-starters, with a strong inclination towards addressing the most pertinent needs of the marginalized communities in both scalable and sustainable ways. Their endeavours encapsulate alleviating poverty, hunger, gender inequality, promoting women empowerment, education. These social entrepreneurs are the torch-bearers who have taken the onus of working towards managing micro-finance needs and daunting challenges like climate change. The tenets of PGP are aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The project is demonstrating unwavering commitment in finding answers to new age problems with their technology driven, scalable, sustainable and innovative solutions.

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