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Women Social Entrepreneurs And Their Struggle #YouthMatters

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“Social Entrepreneurs act as agents of change in society, creating interventions for betterment of society and women play a key role in the whole process. While gender differences might come into play where the magnitude and scale of enterprise is concerned, this is by no means an index of the success of the enterprise. Women entrepreneurs are equally successful and create big impact on society.

‘Skills for Social Enterprise’ is one of the key areas that British Council India is keen to embark upon. The Council has long showcased best of UK innovation and creativity in diverse areas through its programmes. What is now required is to inspire, support and develop next generation of women social entrepreneurs and through their systems and products, deliver wider benefits to the society. This week through Youth ki Awaaz, our partner in this campaign, we will focus on key challenges that young social entrepreneurs specifically women face in their journey…..”- Dr. G.S. Gujral, Head- Society (India), British Council.

By Lata Jha:

Enterprise gains stage in strange ways. A guy who can’t afford a tea stall sets up a kettle and a dozen cups in the space that is a wall crack. Youngsters who can’t voice their opinions in the mainstream take up blogging, social networking and uploading their own videos. All it takes is courage and conviction, you’d think?

womenEasier said than done, though. If how you were and what you did were the only determinants to your success, no diligent student would ever sit down and cry with a paltry 85 per cent in his boards, no dancer would ever impair his limbs and no chef would ever burn his best tested recipe. There is a lot more to success that has to do with your destiny, the pressures around you, your lifestyle and circumstances, and the attitudes and mindsets you have to deal with in the race for that red ribbon.

Women social entrepreneurs around us are much lesser in number than one would wish for. Start ups are anyway a risky business idea. And women, most people think, are not meant for adventure. Theirs is the comfortable space, homemade snacks; teaching or embroidery classes are as ambitious as they can get about ‘doing their own thing’. Going beyond those would make men in their lives uncomfortable. It seems they are only well-suited for the parties and wedding, taking care of children and nursing their wounds. It is assumed that other things in her life can wait.

The firm strides women take towards empowering themselves are testimony to an evolving society at the heart of which are strongly unchanging, unwavering prejudices. Most jobs, including corporate ones, have a strong male bias and are structured to eulogise men and their superior status. A woman has to struggle twice as much to make it big in the same space. The frequent long working hours, the workload and the stress that often get to one are not considered a woman’s cup of tea.

As deep as we may search for answers to this, there is pretty much only one underlying reason. Our patriarchal system may give a woman the liberty to follow her dreams, but not the space to chase them. Unfortunately, there is nothing to keep her motivated. Top positions in corporate spaces are reserved for men (or so it seems). She isn’t seen as a leader or a role model. Also, most don’t like working under a woman boss, especially men whose ego would get bruised beyond imagination.

We don’t see too many women entrepreneurs, or at least, too many successful women entrepreneurs because somewhere while chasing their dreams, they’re pulled back and made to fulfil her duties even before she can get her plan to be a successful social entrepreneur in place. Work is always secondary, and when it happens, a woman is made to feel like it’s some rare gift she’s been blessed with. It is not banal, normal or even acceptable. It is not done when she starts to or desires to give it as much time and attention as her home and family.

The fact that apart from men, most women today themselves look down on other women who seem ‘too big for their boots’ is proof enough of the mindsets we grapple with.

Not that women haven’t already done it, but it would take a lot more women with passion and conviction to change this. From education to voting rights, we got it all for ourselves. We’ve always been multitaskers; we just need to fight a little harder to make our place. Remember: it’s never too late.

Discuss: Do Women Social Entrepreneurs Face More Challenges? 

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  1. Raj

    Blaming men and patriarchy again? That is the common theme all over this website.

    1. Neha Jha

      She is just talking about the challenges women enterpreneurs face. And, you can’t always crib when a bitter truth is revealed. And, even if you forget that, you have to see that women have to think about their physical security first. That’s not the same with men. I’ve seen many women enterpreneurs who took male-dominated jobs and were chided with words like, “yeh kaisa kaam hai..yeh toh mardo ka kaam hai…zaroor kisi k saath chakkar hoga..” seen it with my own eyes. U don’t wanna believe, we can’t help. The day u see something like this yourself, u’ll know

    2. Raj

      Please read her article carefully and you will the pattern of blaming men in general.

      Women do have to think of their physical security but so do men. Men are far more often victims of violent crimes than women even rape included. Far more men work in dangerous jobs than do women including the defense forces, the police etc.. These brave men and women, protect the society as a whole without distinguishing between men and women. Thinking about one’s safety is a very important for both men and women. However as a society we have always prized the lives of women and children far above men. For countless centuries, men have had to protect and build the society. Men were forcefully conscripted to fight wars and suffered horrific deaths. Think about the torture and massacres of CRPF and Army men at the hands of our enemies. Do you recall them? So I would argue that we treat male deaths in a very casual manner and place a lot more importance on women’s lives.

      And regarding the male dominated jobs, have you asked a bigger question : Why are those jobs male dominated in the first place? The answer is because men are considered disposable pawns of their society whose worth is based on the value they provide the society. A man is not allowed to procreate until he has made his contribution. Basically until he has a job and prestige in the society, he can’t or rather won’t be able to get married.
      A sweet handsome house-husband isn’t going to get married but a sweet beautiful house-wife will have no dearth of suitors.

      It is our traditional society that treats men as disposable pawns and women as brood mares that is to be blamed, not some notion of “patriarchy”.
      And the lesson for men here is that they should smarten up and reclaim their individuality. They must shed this facade of heroism and realize that their lifespans are being shortened because of their “need” to act as the pillars of society. They should learn to pursue their own happiness and let women take up traditionally male-roles, thus freeing themselves(men) from such bondage.

  2. Neha Raman

    Not all men are being blamed here. It is in fact the unavoidable truth that the society is Patriarchal and widely evident that women do not get a chance to pursue their interests or their ambition for that matter for they are bound to look after their family needs prior to their own. It is indeed viewed as their duty to take care of their family first in the course of which they may not be able to take forward their entrepreneurial aptitudes. Yes, there are exceptions to this. But the majority only shows how women are being suppressed by the patriarchy!

    1. Raj

      Her prose makes it very difficult to distinguish whether she means men in general or certain specific individuals with certain viewpoints.
      And please read my above reply to Neha. Are men allowed to pursue their dreams? Aren’t they also forced into loveless marriages and made to take care of their wives and children? Are they allowed to sit at home and take care of the house and kids? Isn’t this frowned upon by both men and women?
      You think it is an honor that men are “allowed” to pursue entrepreneurial ventures? No, it was out necessity, to feed his family and to take care of his wife and kids. Doesn’t this show that men are being oppressed by what you call patriarchy?
      You may think of entrepreneurship as some hobby but for millions of men, it is their primary source of livelihood. Ask the roadside food vendor or fruit seller how he got started with his “entrepreneurial venture”, in which lifestyle magazine he read about it and if Narayana Murthy inspired him to take up entrepreneurship and he will tell you because the only reason he did it was he had hungry mouths to feed.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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