Where there is a will there is a way
All stories of struggle don't end the same way. Vijay Laxmi’s story was not an exception.
This is the story of a woman, 37, from KHADKHADI Village of Mewat, the poorest district in the industrially rich state of Haryana. She has been struggling for a long time to meet the basics needs of her family of 6 with her husband and four children. Her husband used to work as an electrician without much income to support either. It has always been her dream of doing something big in terms of earning a livelihood in order to provide better education, health & nutrition to her kids.
Vijay Laxmi began to search for work in nearby areas but she didn't have anyt skillset required to have a stable job. Finally, she joined a Self Help Group in her village with the purpose to improve her socio-economic status but the income was not enough. Her case came to light during an intervention & community survey of Sukarya in her village and she was asked to work in Sukarya’s livelihood program: “AapkiSaathi Masala Kendra [Spice & Cereal processing unit]. At first, she hesitated to work as she had to commute at least 50 km from her vllage to Gurugram where the Masala Kendra was located. But she was inspired by the Sukraya team which had built self confidence& determination in her.
Vijay Laxmi was a quick learner. The training provided at the centre making Spices, pickles & other food stuffs helped her to enhance, technical knowledge in food processing, packaging, sales, accounting and overall understanding about micro entrepreneurship.
After more than one year, Vijay Laxmi is working and learning effectively and has become quite perfectly skilled to manage a spice and cereal processing unit on her own. Thanks to the hard work and determination displayed by Vijay Laxmi, She is very happy to le to make a valuable contribution to her family’s financial well being. Now she is a respectable member of her community and leads a healthy life with dignity and self-respect.
Now she has put a request to open a small spice and cereal processing unit in her area of neighborhood& very soon she would be able to do that as she is quite determined and confident. “Where there is a will: there is a way”. Sukarya always looks for more such needy women and supports them under its Women Empowerment Program who ultimately set examples for all of us.
Aspiring to become Micro Entrepreneur – Story of Mudra
She does not seem to be tired after traveling almost 50 km all the way from Kharkhari Village, in Haryana, to Gurugram to learn micro business skills at Sukarya’s Spice & Cereal Processing Unit (SCPU). The vertical is specifically dedicated for women empowerment of rural self help group women.
“It is very hard for women to step out from the village and travel to such a big distance. My family has hardly allowed me to go out” says, Mudra, who is determined to become a micro entrepreneur in spice and cereal processing business. Having 3 children to look after, her husband is a daily wage earner and always struggles to get regular work.”The earning I receive while learning at Sukarya helps me support my children in studies and also manage household expenses as my husband always finds it difficult to bear multiple expenses”, further adds, Mudra. Her strong dedication and firm aspiration has been a source of motivation for her three colleagues who hail from the same village.
She has managed to rebuild her life through becoming a Self-Help Group(SHG) member. For the sake of their self respect and earning her livelihood, she always showed a deep interest in learning and capacity building activities to the SHG members by Sukarya. She became an active member of the SHG in handling bookkeeping and recording inter loaning/accounts. She had a sharp mind in accounts and marketing out of the Institutional Training modules at Sukarya Learning and Processing Center in Gurgaon. Through Sukarya imparting their skill based training for income generation like Fortified Atta, cereals, spices, pickle for better understanding of entrepreneurial skills, forward and backward linkages. She now prefers to devote more time to her business of managing a small village outlet of the processing center products to earn her livelihood.
“Mudra didi (sister) runs through our homes in the morning and push us to get ready to attend office at Sukarya. We have strong bonding now, and this helps us easily travel the long distance”, narrates Babita, her colleague at SCPU.
The small group of 4 rural SHG women has completed three months in spite of multiple barriers – social, Cultural and a long distance to reach the office. These women have become motivation for rest of the village, especially for women.
A story of powerful change
Women still face widespread socio- economic and cultural barriers in rural India to reach their full potentials towards their socio-economic pursuits. It further leads for vicious circle of illiteracy, poverty and low social status for women.
There is a requirement to focus and make efforts to increase women’s representation in structured economic activities by facilitating access to education, productive resources, and build on their knowledge, skills and abilities.
Given this backdrop, the SCPU [Spice and cereal processing unit] of Sukarya is providing an excellent opportunity for rural women to acquire skills, generate income and develop themselves for micro entrepreneurship.
The associated women from villages have their own challenges and struggles to deal with social stereotypes to be part of SCPU at Gurugram in Urban set up. Their need of earnings, aspiration and strong determination making them succeed to reach all the way from remote villages with nearly 50-60 km per day travelling.
Manju, one of the most committed worker of SCPU says, she feels great while working, learning and earning here. She wants to acquire maximum knowledge and skills and complete understanding about Store keeping, Processing & production, Packaging, Selling & Marketing and ‘technical knowhow ‘to initiate their own small business at village. She aspires to be a micro entrepreneur.
She further explains that, by earning she finds herself more confident and empowered. Over a period of time, there is a positive change in husband’s behavior towards her. Now she gets better treatment and importance in the family. It gives her immense pleasure to contribute financially for her family and children.
She is a fine example of how an economic independence can do wonders for enhancing the social status of women.
She is a highly motivated and determined worker and all set to be a future micro entrepreneurship woman in days ahead.
A domestic violence victim, Poonam from Lakshmi SHG in (Gwalpahadi, Gurgaon), has a drunkard husband. Her situation was very grave as her family rents their house and she is the sole breadwinner of the family. She is quite smart, proactive and easy to grasp any new learnings at the Sukarya Center. She understands the importance of education and wants her children to attend a regular school, for which she expressed an urge for a full time work. Her main interest areas are Processing, documentation and marketing modules at the Sukarya Institutional Training sessions. She is now working in the Saathi Masala Project for the full day. “We can’t speak our mind and are invisible in the society but it is not difficult to break this barrier", she says proudly, "I am happy and confident now.”
Further to establishing the spice and cereal processing and packaging unit in the village, women group began working in unit with full motivation and enthusiasm. Group members are tirelessly working to meet the requirement of high standard market and norms & regulations set by the FSSAI [Food safety and standard authority of India]. The best news is that team got the good response from the market and connected with the super market retail chain called NEEDS. Orders are coming up on regular basis, now efforts are being made to receive bulk orders in order to raise the net income of women workers.
Rukshana has worked for Sukarya for 10 years as a Village Coordinator and was one of the founder members of Khushaal Women’s Self Help Group. She has shown commitment, reliability and dedication both to Sukarya and the community in which she works. For the past few years Rukshana has also been teaching women within her community how to grind, pack and label cereals and spices. She also helps in SHG capacity building by training other women how to work as micro-entrepreneur using their savings through regular inter-loaning SHG activity and how to avail bank loans through the bank linkages developed for the SHG. She is the main co-ordinator for our recently launched project, she distributes the work among these women, providing them with extra income, independence and confidence.
Rukshana, 46, is the eldest of 6 children. Married at the age of 21 through an arranged marriage, she lived with her husband for just one week before the trouble began. During that time her husband demanded more dowry from her family. He told Rukshana that he would only live with her if she could arrange this extra money which she couldn't. Unable to re-marry due to her cultural bindings, this is where she has remained ever since. She now lives alone after both of her parents passed away and all her brothers and sisters were settled. Despite all these challenges, Rukshana has dedicated her life to helping her family members with their education and well being. She is an integral part of the community in which she lives, demonstrating independence and resilience and acting as a great role model for other women.
“For under-privileged women like us, it is very difficult to raise capital for any production activity as the indigenous money lenders charge very high rate of interest. We are thankful to Sukarya to help us with the training and post training assistance to set up village outlets and production units for cereals, spices and pickles. The SHG members enjoy the profit of their hard work by keeping the capital in a cash or kind mode for re-investment purpose".
DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE
‘I want to help others and especially help my brother's children in completing their education.’
‘Always meet your challenge and if God closes one door he will open another. Do not lose your courage.’
‘I love to stand on my own two feet and help others to live with self respect.’
Leelawati moved from taking a monthly allowance from her son to economically helping him. "60 year old Leelawati lives in the village of Gwalpahari (Gurgaon) with her family. Even at 60 years of age, she was dependent on her sons and husband, financially as well as socially. She has been very keen to visit pilgrimages but due to lack of financial power she has had to suppress her wish, since her family does not want to contribute towards this. One day, Leelawati met our community mobiliser who spoke to her about the Self Help Groups and Spice and Cereal Processing Units (SCPU) being run in her village. She was extremely keen to join the SHG and after overcoming several barriers from the family, she started saving and contributing Rs. 100. After becoming member of Umang SHG, she also started working in SCPU and enrolled in the Adult Literacy Classes. Working in the Spice and Cereal processing Unit, she started earning between Rs 500-800 on a monthly basis. With our support, Leelawati took a loan of Rs 20,000 to purchase a buffalo. This was a turning point in her life. She started selling milk, augmented her income and doubled this by purchasing one more buffalo. She is now earning Rs. 3000 – Rs. 3500 per month. Leelawati divides this income into two parts - one part is reserved for repaying the loan amount & the other is for scaling up her business. Leelawati not only enhanced her economic status but she also got socially recognition when she availed a loan of Rs. 10,000 for her son’s business. This is was a big step for her as she moved from taking a monthly allowance from her son to economically helping him."