Kamlesh is a 35-year-old resident of Pinangwan, and lives with her husband and his family. Pinangwan is a small town in Nuh district, Haryana. With a literacy rate of 62.13 % that is lower than state average of 75.55 %, Pinangwan’s female literacy rate is at an abysmally low rate of 49.28 % while male literacy is around 74%. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Kamlesh had to discontinue her studies right after completing her 12th standard.
As a society infused with patriarchy, education and employment clearly belonged to the privileged male members of the society in this town. Women are not educated enough and therefore have lesser chances of employment or even a basic access to employment opportunities. In such situations, women are unable to contribute financially towards their family and they are relegated to housework. Census 2011 states that out of the entire population, approximately 2778 were engaged in work or business activities. Unfortunately, out of these around 2,576 were males while a dismal figure of 202 were females.
Evidently, women become completely dependent on their male counterparts for financial support which contributes in continuing the cycle of poverty, especially when members are added on to the family. Often, even if the woman wants to be employed, the husband or the family members are hesitant because of the social pressure and conditioning. This vicious loop between education, employment, poverty and patriarchy, thus continues and is not easily broken.
However, Kamlesh had other plans. Envisioning a better quality of life, she decided to become financially independent. “I wanted to purchase better quality food, and have access to health services. I didn’t want to survive by only fulfilling my basic needs but also strive for more and for better quality life. It was that day, I decided to stop being only a home-maker”, says Kamlesh with determination.
In the hope of earning more, and sending her children to better schools, she broke the news to her family. As expected, her family wasn’t supportive and expressed disdain in her decision. However, she was determined to change her living conditions and decided to join a Self-Help Group (SHG).
Once she became a part of the SHG, her determination and hard work got her the opportunity of working as a Community Resource Person (CRP) for a year. Soon enough she availed a loan of Rs. 50,000 from the SHG and started a shoe shop for women. This was successful to such an extent that she started earning Rs.300 – Rs. 400 profit on a daily basis. As meticulous that Kamlesh was, she saved up a part of the money while keeping aside a part for ‘hospital bills’ and ‘school’. Currently, as someone who contributes financially to the family, she says “Our life has changed! My family is eating better and I don’t have to worry about not having enough savings for emergencies. In fact, I have made more friends now and I know that because of my profession, I have earned respect of a lot of people in the village!” In fact, her husband also helps her with the shop now.
Before joining the SHG, their family income was Rs. 5000 per month. However, with the setting up of the shop, the family income jumped to Rs. 13,000. She feels that this would not have been possible without help of other SHG members and also believes that these interventions have made a strong woman out of her.
Kamlesh is an unstoppable woman and plans to expand the services at her shop. “I want to start selling ladies clothes like Kurti and Suits since most of my customers are women. I think I would be able to earn more and build a loyal customer base” she shares excitedly. She dreams of owning a house with better infrastructure and vows not to stop till that happens.
Just like a good businessperson, she has taken into cognisance the challenges that she might have to face. Aware of the fact that she not highly educated and fusing that with the societal pressures of women in business, she knows that expanding her business might become a difficult task and she might have to face resistance. Moreover, expansion of business means more space for shop and better management skills. All of this requires money and time that might pose another problem.
Taking these into consideration, LDF team extended further support to her. We helped her understand schemes for Micro Enterprises. Along with that, we realised the need to educate potential women entrepreneurs of basic business techniques. Obtaining loans from bank and trading with market for selling and buying products were few lessons that were imparted.
Kamlesh continues to strive towards realising her dreams. Her business is helping her lead a better life and she is sure that it only gets better from here.