Income for Women

Training women to use smartphones for business

GEN is now building an innovative project for women in rural Rajasthan which will train them to use digital (mainly smartphone) technology to establish small-scale village-based businesses, for example, by improving the supply of seeds or fertilizer in isolated villages, or by selling homemade produce.

Shri Shyam, a model for others?

Ten women in the village of Shekhpur started saving in a self-help group and committed to saving Rs. 100 (roughly £1) per month individually, and Rs.1000 as a group. They opened their bank account in a local government-owned ‘Grameen Bank’ ( note these specialize in helping poor rural communities and women).

During lockdown the women learnt how to make masks and earned a modest income while many men had lost jobs and were sitting at home.

The group successfully raised an interest-free group loan of Rs.10,0000 from the bank in early 2020 and despite the hardships of 2020 re-paid the loan. This year the bank has already sanctioned a loan of Rs.20,0000 to the group, which will be shared equally between them. They will buy a cow, two buffaloes, a lathe and wood, and open a beauty parlour.

This group is now a role model and women in 6 other groups, who have borrowed money from private banks at high interest rates and tight repayment terms, are eager to transfer their bank accounts to this government bank.

We believe the women of Shri Shyam are ready for their journey in entrepreneurship with support and mentoring from our Indian partners.  Group members regularly attend training sessions and are in the process of scoping their business ideas.

This is Mamta, who set up the Shri Shyam savings group and is its Secretary. She learnt to sew with her local craft group, where she began training in  2015.

Here we profile two women whom we believe this approach will benefit and who have already begun their journey towards a better life.

Manisha joined our crafts programme in 2016, aspiring to learn new skills and earn more. She attended training and upskilled her sewing that she so far only used for domestic purposes like repairs etc. She then joined in the production of orders procured for the women in her local group who earned regularly from marketable work.

Later in 2016 this group formed a self-help savings group which has since been loaning money to the women in turns. Manisha borrowed Rs.25000 (roughly £250) in 2020 and bought herself an ‘aata chakki’, or wheat grinder,  and now has 8-10 regular customers for whom she grinds wheat. She also owns a buffalo, a cow, and a calf. She sells approximately 4 litres of milk daily.

A third source of income is making salwars with her friends who sew kurtas to make a salwar-kurta set by order from other village women (note; typical dress for women in this area).

Asha, from Nakhnol village, is highly aspirational and talented. Asha began working with End Poverty, our partner NGO in India, as a teacher on our one-year education programme for unschooled girls. Her sister Papita began earning through the crafts programme and became the leader of her group. The two started a self-help savings group with other women and began saving.

Asha bought a buffalo with a loan from the group and earned income from selling its milk. A few years later Asha sold the milking buffalo but kept her calf and bought another calf for herself. She now plans to start her own small dairy of 4 buffaloes and is keen to raise a bank loan to fund her dairy.

Women like these are ready to earn income and thus gain respect and agency within their communities. We believe digital technology, which is now spreading into the rural areas where we operate, can be the catalyst enabling them to make a small, but to the vital, independent income.