Covid-19 changed lives for the worst for many but a group of women – from college girls Venella and Ramya to septuagenarian Savithramma – in a village near Bengaluru have turned the crisis into an opportunity.
Until recently, Venella and Ramya had no source of income to support themselves in their studies but they teamed up with Yashoda, another woman in their village, to produce and market handmade organic cosmetics and registered their venture as ‘Kadumba Naturals’.
For Yashoda, it was a do or die battle as her husband, a cab driver in Bengaluru, lost his job in the pandemic and the family was facing financial troubles. That was when Yashoda decided to take the risk – join hands with women in her village and start a business.
If Yashoda grouped herself with the two college girls, another group of women started a snacks business selling local delicacies. A group ventured into setting up a tailoring unit while another into producing and selling of biodegradable sanitary pads and a group of elderly women looked at options in sheep rearing.
All these women are residents of villages in and around Guttahalli in Bengaluru Rural and began their ventures with the support of Smile Foundation’s ‘Entrepreneur Development Training Programme’.
“In any crisis or a situation like a pandemic, women have to face the impact. They do not have a support system though they are mainstays of their families. We need to empower women financially and there need to be projects in that direction,” Seema Kumar, Smile Foundation’s General Manager (Programmes), told DH.
Navaneetha Jeyapal, Project Coordinator of Smile Foundation’s Swabhiman project that runs the programme, said they were helping these women create the business of their interest.
The groups of women were chosen from around 170 who gathered for the programme initially and after a series of workshops and training programmes and provided raw materials to the selected groups that made products and ventured into marketing and selling. “Some exercises were conducted as part of a training programme to assess these women’s skills in conducting business and their risk taking ability,” Jeyapal told DH.
Among the groups, there is a clear work division. If Yashodha is making organic cosmetics, Venella and Ramya are into marketing. It is the same case with the tailoring unit, where women were given special training to start their venture.
The project also brought the best among the women, including leadership qualities. Yashoda motivated other women in her community to start their own enterprises.
“For those, who haven’t been able to arrange resources initially, she has involved them in her business on payment basis for production,” organisers said. Yashoda now wants to expand her business and train and support women.
At the time of conceiving the projects, the organisers recall how the “infectious” enthusiasm of septuagenarian Savithramma swept them away, as she teamed with her friends Muni Lakshmamma, Gundamma, Lakshmi and Muniamma for a business venture on sheep rearing. Savithramma attended all the training programmes, they say.
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