After working for thirty three years with rural women, it is evident that financial dependency of women on men is one of the reasons why women endure injustice at the family and community level. To make women more independent, it is imperative that they become financially independent. Another important aspect is to build a supplementary income-generating enterprise apart from farming. Most of these women come from families that are dependent on agriculture for their survival. Due to natural disasters and seasonal inconsistencies which severely affect the agricultural yield, and economic unpredictability which affects the prices offered to farm produce, it is essential to have a supplementary means of income genertaion.
One of the activities through which we ascertain empowerment of rural women is entrepreneurship workshops and enabling women to build small scale businesses. A financially independent woman can explore avenues for her own development, and in effect development of her surroundings, without worrying about the monetary means to sustain herself and her family. This is the seed behind organising these workshops.
We have been organising these workshops for almost 15-20 years now. Three types of workshops are organised:
1. Introductory Camps:
15-20 camps per year; on an average 20-30 women per camp. Rs. 10/- entry fee*. These women are usually drawn from the introductory camps based on their initiative and enthusiasm. There's no filtering in the selection process. Anyone who shows an interest to start an enterprise in the introductory workshop is admitted in the advanced workshop.Each of these camps is for a specific kind of training such as food and agri-produce processing (condiments, grain and pulses grinding units; value addition of fruit products like fruit lollies and candies and dried fruit poweders; snacks such as laddu, chivada, mixture, daal vada, etc.), technical training camps for repairing machines (such as sewing machines,cycle repair shops, LPG stoves and burners repair shops, etc.) and opening retail shops (selling utensils, cosmetics, bangles and women's accessories, stationery, etc.). Resource people involved in these camps are mostly rural women from same or nearby villages who have successfully managed the same enterprise for a few years.
|An advanced training camp for repair of gas burners. Note that the resource people are not imported from cities but are rural women who participated in Chetana-Vikas's training camps a few years ago, and now have a successful enterprise.|
|Food value addition workshops|
|sewing machine workshops|
20 camps per year; on an average 15 women per camp. Rs. 25/- entry fee*. Chetana-Vikas staff trains women who have initiated and sustained a successful enterprise in their villages. These women have sufficient practical experience, but sometimes lack the methods or courage to speak to a group. These workshops are held to train them in communicating their thoughts effectively in a group.
(*Note: Over the years, we have realised that things that come free are not usually valued. More than 95% of the nominal entry fee we charge is eventually paid back to women when their transport fare is reimbursed.)
In last few months:
Six introductory camps were organised, in which 350 women participated. Instead of identifying resource persons from urban backgrounds, we decided to invite rural women entrepreneurs (who were trained in ToT workshops) as speakers. Since these women hail from the same background, and are aware of the ground realities, problems, managing small-scale businesses in terms of profits-and losses, marketing of products in villages, they turned out to be excellent advisers as expected.
The camps started with sharing of experiences, with a focus on questions such as -
- what businesses could be viable in the region?
- how to raise funds for the start-up?
- how to market one's product to reach maximum consumer base?
- what innovative strategies could be incorporated for marketing and selling?
- how does one improve one's skill set? where does one get training? are there certain trainings or workshops where Chetana-Vikas could help and recommend the women to the organisers?
The resource persons-cum-rural entrepreneurs and Chetana-Vikas staff answered these queries.
The camps concluded by making a list of women who are interested in getting a training in the enterprise they want to pursue. It makes us at Chetana-Vikas feel proud as facilitators that almost 50 % of the women (~170 women) showed interest in starting their own enterprise. These women will be later admitted to different advanced training workshops depending upon their choice of enterprise.
Some of these enterprises may seem too small or trivial to an urban mind accustomed to seeing ventures on grand scales. However, in a hand-to-mouth existence, every penny counts!
We are posting some of the photos taken at these events:
|A retail shop for women's clothing and accessories. The smiles are priceless!|
|An operational grinding unit where chilli is being ground!|
|An installed and fully functional grinding unit|
|Listing of items and keeping accounts in a retail shop selling utensils.|