Do you know that women account for as much as 89.5% of the labour force in rural India in the agriculture and allied industrial sectors? Or that 47% of India’s women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18 as per UNICEF’s ‘State of the World’s Children-2009’ report?
In a country where female infanticide is still prevalent in some rural parts, this story is nothing less than a knight in shining armour. Writing this was joy and inspiration, and I wish it leaves the same emotions to you.
Meet the five iconic women of rural India who changed the entire roop rekha of their village with their sheer determination and hard work and inspired and empowered thousands of others!
This gritty woman brought a revolution in the field of education when she decided to open her own anganwadi after finding no schools and centres educating kids in her village in the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra.
She started teaching them from her own home and later shifted to a temple when the number of kids increased. But this journey was not so easy as she had to struggle hard and convince villagers to send their kids to study.
But she did it. And she did it for eleven long years until the government noticed her good deed and decided to open an anganwadi, Balwadi Vidya Mandir, there.
“The kids belonged to low-income families, and there was no question of charging them any fees. Sometimes the parents would give me food grains, but I never expected any money,” Sushila has taught more than 250 kids without charging a single penny in all these years.
The ‘Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’ awardee of 2013 is the founder of ‘Godavari Akashkandil’ which is a paper lamp manufacturing business founded in 2009.
What she started with a meagre amount of loan taken from her relatives is now employing and empowering several other women in rural areas and helping them in becoming financially independent. Her company crossed the annual turnover of over INR 30 lakh in the year 2013.
This resident of Telana village from Assam is the brain behind Seuji, which is an all-women self-help group that makes traditional Assamese japis, manufactures organic manure, and sells them.
They sell Kesuhaar, organic manure, which contains natural elements like cow dung, banana plant remains, earthworms, and fallen leaves for Rs 50 per packet (weighing 5 kg each). Japis are traditional conical, wide-rimmed Assamese hats which Seuji makes as per an individual’s or an organisation’s request. They also sell them in neighbouring markets.
The founder of Bhojpur Mahila Kala Kendra, Anita Gupta hails from the Arrah of Bihar and is a recipient of an award from the Government of Bihar. Her NGO, which was established in 1993, has trained more than 25,000 women in nearly 400 skills and has formed around 300 women self-help groups in Bihar.
Her NGO received support from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and DC Handicrafts, Government of India in 2000. Anita is also a member of USHA Silai School in Jharkhand and Bihar, where she trains women in sewing.
Ever wondered of a bank that provides loans of amounts as low as INR 15 to rural women? Mumbai based Chetna Gala Sinha started this unique revolutionary bank back in 1997 when she realised that financial aid was indeed the best possible way to empower women in rural India.
The Mann Deshi Bank originated from the town of Mhaswad in Satara district of Maharashtra, expanded to eight branches and empowered more than 3,00,000 women through 140 field facilitators. The bank offers loans for one day to five years, for the smallest amount you can think of, and EMI repayments for amounts like INR 15.
“Looking at the success, we plan to take this model all across the country and want to impact 1 million women entrepreneurs by 2022. All we need is patience and courage for that,” Chetna adds.
October 15 is marked as the International Day of Rural Women across the world. As per the United Nations, rural women — a quarter of the world’s population — work as farmers, wage earners, and entrepreneurs. And if women in rural areas had the same access to agricultural assets, education, and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased, and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million. #InfanoWomen