-penned by Ms. Jagriti Shankar
What a busy December it has been at Sharana, with all social workers pitching in for so many different activities, visits to Angalakuppam, studying business proposals, meetings Sharana mothers, lots of discussions, business viability checks, developing guidelines, etc…
Sharana is well known for its outstanding programs to support underprivileged children. Since 19 years of its establishment Sharana has been untiring working towards betterment of children by providing support with education, skills, nutrition and overall family welfare.
However, one of the less known facts about Sharana is that along with children, Sharana also empowers community women under special women-oriented projects. The Women Social Entrepreneurship Program is one such flagship project of Sharana, a step towards economic empowerment of underprivileged women. The program aims not only to make women financially independent, it also builds their skills, confidence and self-esteem. The project provides microcredit to underprivileged women for establishing their own small business or develop an existent business. These interest free and collateral free loans break the cycle of poverty, provide necessary financial support without any hassle, and prevent women from falling into the trap of private money lenders.
This year the project has a target to issue minimum 35 loans in rural and urban areas of Puducherry. The first set of loans have been disbursed at Angalakuppam village. Sharana shares a special connection with Angalakuppam village, and a lot has changed since Sharana started working there since 2000. The loans will support a range of businesses including fishing, dairy, agriculture, tailoring, and even ironing. For some businesses, women have taken the sole responsibility of running the business, and in others they run the business jointly with their husbands. It has been amazing to see that men of the village have welcomed the idea and have been very supportive to the wives. They are encouraging women to take loans and start a business of their own.
Sharana is expecting that the project will not only improve the economic condition of the families, rather it will improve overall well-being of the family. It will meet women’s and family’s basic needs like food, nutrition, clothing, children’s education, and housing, etc. It will inculcate business skills in women. By promoting women entrepreneurs it will also loosen up stereotypical gender roles. During the Project Commencement Meeting when husbands were asked whether they would want their wives to become a successful entrepreneur, and whether they will provide all sorts of physical, mental, emotional and moral support to their wives, all the husbands enthusiastically shouted ‘Yes’!! And which brought big smiles on the faces of Winner Women Entrepreneurs of Angalakuppam.
Ms. Jagriti Shankar is leading the Women Social Entrepreneurship Program at Sharana. She has worked with National and International organizations in the areas of Gender Planning, Gender Sensitization, Monitoring & Evaluation, and Value Chain Development.