Pune: Organised by Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), the Unnati Fellowship Award in Pune was awarded to 20 women leaders from rural India, who inspired change in their communities. The event introduced several women leaders from rural areas of Maharashtra, who have overcome many hurdles to become successful entrepreneurs and are being mentors to many others.
The Unnati Fellowship award includes mentoring for 1 year, 1 lakh prize money for each person and complete support and monitoring of their projects by SSP.
Recipient of many awards, Kamal Kumbhar, who hails from Osamabad district of Maharashtra, was felicitated at this event. “As my father was a daily wage labourer, I have seen absolute poverty throughout my younger days. For the want of financial support, my marriage broke. I started a small business of selling bangles by investing merely Rs 500. But then gradually, I earned a good profit and started Kamal Poultry and Ekta Producer Company in a period of two years and also became the leader of the Women’s Federation in Maharashtra.”
Kumbhar added, “Gaining knowledge about green energy and climate network of SSP, I started another business in renewable energy, which has now successfully lit up more than 3,000 homes with solar-powered devices,” she added.
Just like Kumbhar, Archana Bhosle, a resident of Devsinga village in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra, had to start a business to rescue her family from poverty. She said that her village is one of the drought-prone areas, and each year, the village faces shortage of water.
“Earlier, we only focused on cultivating sugarcane every year and used to buy vegetables for daily meals. Gradually, SSP’s training and awareness programme on water efficient methods, low cost inputs for cultivation and fodder preparation helped me towards organic farming and cultivation during extreme climate. To engage in sustainable agriculture practices, we brought land of 5 acres and included women in the group of cultivators. We started growing jowar, wheat and different vegetables in the land.”
She added, “Presently, the group has over 25 acres of land controlled by women, who not only take care of their families’ health by cultivating vegetables on their own lands but also use it for their own consumption.” Archana received an award from Sarva Utkrushta Krishi Samman Puraskar 2016 and is also the president of Women’s Farmer group of her village.
Sumitra Shiral, who too was felicitated at this event, shared that there was tremendous pressure on her to get dowry from her parents. To escape from these unjust demands, she started her business journey by selling various offerings - prasad thali with little money.
Currently, she owns two shops and is also Director of ‘Women’s Manjiri Sakhi Producer’ company. “At the time of starting the business, no one was ready to lend me a single penny. Somehow, I managed to arrange Rs 50 to buy initial stock for a day. But then slowly I learned about business and SSP’s encouragement of entrepreneurship helped me to introduce a large supply chain of temple products all across Maharashtra. “I also involved over 500 women who are now self-employed. Then I also started mentoring 2,000 women, currently 700 are running successful business with an annual income increase of 40 per cent.”