Anju, Business operations, India

Life hasn’t been easy for Anju, an Assistant Manager at GSK’s Consumer Healthcare Nabha manufacturing plant in northern India. But she’s always had a burning desire to help others less fortunate, and through our PULSE volunteering programme, she is able to do just that. She tells us how.

Anju and a group of women

Anju (centre, in orange) has been on a journey from housewife to independent woman

Why PULSE?

India, like other emerging economies, is prioritising people’s basic needs including health and education, with emphasis on women and children. And this really attracted me to PULSE as I could help women and children in my community through this programme. It is a cause very close to my heart. My husband died when I was only 32, and my journey since then from housewife to independent woman can best be described as a rollercoaster ride.

On the road to recovery

When I lost my husband, he worked at GSK’s Consumer Healthcare manufacturing plant in Nabha, Punjab. I had two children aged five and seven. Like most women in my community, I was a stay-at-home mom and I had not thought about having a professional career. My kids were too young to understand the situation, but I had the desire to do whatever I could to provide for them.  I had societal pressure to remarry, but after months of deliberation, I took a bold decision - I decided to be a single working mom. With absolutely no professional experience, but the determination to find a job, I knocked on GSK’s door and luckily, I found my first job here.

At first, I started in the customer supply & logistic (CSL) store which handles the entire raw material and finished goods logistic management of the factory. My role was to maintain the basic paperwork, apprenticeship and learning computer skills.  Over time, with my manager’s and team support, I started to independently handle finished goods and raw materials planning, as well as despatch.

Then, one day in April 2016, my line manager and I had a review meeting and he said that given my learning agility, dedication and people management skills, the leadership team had decided to allocate new roles and responsibilities and I was asked to take care of the CSL store completely. I was promoted to assistant manager later that month. I was awestruck. I couldn’t stop the tears rolling down my face.

My job at GSK has helped me to provide for my kids and to serve as a role model for them. I will never be able to thank the company enough for helping me find my self-confidence and look after my family.  That’s why I am determined to give something back and to pay it forward to those that are less fortunate than me.

Giving back and growing through volunteering

There’s one thing about a PULSE assignment that I have to say right at the start – it can be nerve-wracking! When I started my three-month assignment with JSI R&T Foundation, particularly on Project PushTi – which aims to improve nutrition, sanitation, hygiene and health in the rural areas of Punjab in northern India – I had a lot of concerns.

My role involved planning and hosting awareness sessions on nutritious diet, preventative health and promoting early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding. The target audience were pregnant and nursing mothers, women with young children and adolescent girls in six villages near the city of Nabha. Given that I had a background in planning, operations and manufacturing in our nutritionals business, I was confident in my ability to do the office components of the role, but I was worried about the field work.

What my life experiences have taught me is that nothing is hard to achieve if you want it badly enough and are prepared to work for it. So, I threw myself into the role, and with each passing day I feel I learn and become more confident. Presenting to a group of women for the first time was one of the most stretching experiences for me. At first, I thought the women in these villages wouldn’t want to learn something new. Much to my delight, however, they were enthusiastic and keen to learn. This made me comfortable. The best feeling was when after a session, a few of the women walked up to me to say, “Anju mam, you teach well,” and they asked to deliver more training sessions for them. It felt like I took a leap in my professional growth.

The project is also extremely rewarding. I feel like I am making a difference to the lives of these women and giving back to my community.

I strongly believe that everyone should do their bit. And I can only say that my work with Project PushTi has given me joy, satisfaction and positive energy. It has also changed my perception of the people who live in rural areas of my country, and it’s been a marvellous growth experience for me.