Swabhiman means self-respect in English. This women’s empowerment programme was initiated by Smile Foundation in 2005. The programme named Swabhiman by Smile Foundation is specifically aimed at marginalised and socially excluded women and adolescent girls through innovative community practices. The realization of both individual and collective self-esteem, by including men and the community, is a key objective of the programme. Thus, women’s entrepreneurship training is a key aspect of the programme as well. So far, the Swabhiman programme has successfully made a difference in the lives of over 560,000 women and girl children.
One programme, many projects: Surat Nagar, Gurgaon
Under the Swabhiman programme, various targeted projects on the ground are carried out regularly. One such project is the “Empowering Women and Adolescent Girls through Reproductive Health Education and Services” in Surat Nagar Phase 2 in Gurugram. The aim of the project is to empower women and girls by generating awareness and providing them access to quality reproductive and sexual health care. In addition, involvement of men and sensitizing them is an integral part of the project. The focus beneficiary groups included adolescent girls (10-19 years), women in the reproductive age (20-49 years), and men (20-49 years).
Women’s entrepreneurship training through Swabhiman
Another aspect of Swabhiman is women’s entrepreneurship training. As women producers take ownership of their businesses and manage their own profits, they improve their social connectivity and build confidence in business negotiations. An improvement in social status is another significant outcome of the business. As a result of generating significant income to meet household needs, these women also start receiving better treatment in their households and the larger community.
Ruby is a 25-year-old resident of Surat Nagar, Gurgaon. She was born in a remote village in West Bengal and shifted to Gurgaon after her marriage. wShe has studied only up to the 8th grade. For almost four years after she got married, Ruby was a full-time homemaker. She took care of all the household chores. However, a certain uncertainty hangs around her husband’s job at a local factory. In the current economic climate, one can never be sure when they might lose their job. All this made Ruby think about starting her own work and bringing in some income for the family.
Ruby always had an interest in fashion. This and a working knowledge of computers helped Ruby take the first steps towards setting up her business. She received skill training under the women’s entrepreneurship programme of Swabhiman. Along with learning how to stitch, Ruby also got enterprise development training.
After her training, Ruby opened a small boutique in her locality. She took a loan of Rs 1,00,000 from the bank. Initially, she had just one machine and she did all the stitching herself. Now, Ruby not only makes an income for her own family, but she also has 10 employees working at her enterprise! Throughout all this, her husband remained a pillar of support for her.
Use of online marketing
Entrepreneurship plays a major role in harnessing knowledge and converting it into a viable product or business through industrial innovation. This is an enviable achievement of Ruby’s boutique. With growing availability of technology and smart devices, Ruby has managed to take her business online. This has enabled her to expand her customer base and business.
Challenges for women entrepreneurs
Ruby believes that life and business do not have ‘problems’; she likes to call them challenges instead. Calling anything a challenge can inspire one to fight back harder and come up with innovative means to mitigate the challenge. Ruby likes to face challenges head on and dealing with them.
For her, the biggest challenge was not having a background in fashion. However, her sustained interest in the field, support from family, and the helpful interventions of entrepreneurship training allowed her to learn and adapt very fast. Like any entrepreneur, she went through a period of self-doubt initially. At one point, she even felt like giving up. Yet, she persevered, and ultimately succeeded.
Empowering through women’s entrepreneurship training
Through her business venture, Ruby is contributing significantly to increased production quality, marketing effectiveness, and job creation. She has proactively encouraged women to take up employment in her enterprise. She ensures that they feel safe and there is a family-like atmosphere. In the male-dominated business of clothing and tailoring boutiques, the women who work with Ruby feel they are in good hands as she is a fair and helpful employer.
Ruby has raked up quite a list of achievements for herself. Her net income per month is approximately Rs. 15000, after all the payments and loan deductions. With her meticulous and organized business skills, it is only going to grow further.
Taking a cue from Ruby’s initiative, other women in her community have also been inspired to start working, either by taking up a job or starting their own venture.