Akriti Gupta talks about Canfem, social enterprise for breast-cancer survivors
Canfem, a social enterprise co-founded by Akriti Gupta, offers low-cost, high quality customized products for breast cancer survivors who have undergone mastectomy. A social enterprise comes with its own set of challenges but Akriti aspires to make Canfem a one stop-hub for breast cancer survivors. She spoke to NewsBytes about her unique initiative, journey so far and what motivated her to start Canfem.
Akriti's empathetic nature was initially nurtured by her father
Akriti was 17 when her dad was diagnosed with cancer. While he could work from home and provide for his treatment, he realized many aren't that privileged. He encouraged Akriti to explore how such people could be helped, and together they came up with an app that provided information about useful training programs, conducted both by the government and corporate sectors.
Akriti subsequently joined hands with an NGO named Win Over Cancer, wherein they conducted interactive sessions to educate young people about cancer and its impact, in constructive and positive ways. She adds that the impact of cancer on families led to her interest in social entrepreneurship, as she was motivated to understand more about the difficulties they faced and help those who needed support.
Her interaction with breast cancer patients paved way for Canfem
Spending long days at the hospital to support her father's treatment exposed both Akriti and her mother, Kavita Gupta to the experiences of breast cancer patients. These interactions gave them a first-hand understanding of the difficulties faced by mastectomy patients to find the right prosthetics. With support and guidance from her mother, Akriti made use of her research and academic experience to founding Canfem.
After breast removal, patients are faced with body image issues
Through her detailed research, Akriti understood that the removal of breasts in cancer patients creates body imbalance, which harms their physical and mental health. This often impacts their body image and self-confidence, often leading to social isolation. The unaffordability of silicone-based prosthesis forces most women to use harmful alternatives like stuff toys or baby diapers, which is a big blow to their dignity.
Canfem aims to provide breast cancer survivors a better life
Canfem understands the difficulties faced by breast cancer patients and aims to provide them with a better quality of life. Their unique products - external breast prosthesis and mastectomy brassier are well-received; the pilot program with 2,200+ patients had an astounding success rate of 93%. Both products can be customized according to patients' needs and begin at a price range of Rs. 1,500.
The enterprise uplifts underprivileged women by providing them employment
Canfem's manufacturing facility, based out of rural India, also trains underprivileged women to manufacture the products, thus ensuring their financial independence. While the staff has fair wages, during unfortunate situations like domestic violence, they are also provided with additional support through a team of advisers, who help them legally. The team further supports and encourages them to give better education to their children.
Akriti has received recognition from organizations like the Singapore International Foundation, Women Economic Forum, and earned awards like Global Student Entrepreneur and Young Entrepreneur Award. However, she had to face a lot of disapproval initially. She says, "I was advised by people to get a stable job. However, these recognitions spur me on and validate my goal of making a difference through social enterprise."
Canfem aims to be one-stop hub for breast cancer patients
"I plan to expand Canfem to become a one-stop hub for information, education, and empowerment, working toward improving the quality of life for patients and family. We need to build a stronger peer education and connection network in India," says Gupta. At the age of 23, Akriti Gupta is impacting change in a large way and is an inspiration to all. Kudos to her!