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Unlocking the power of Entrepreneurship among women in rural India

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According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020*, it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress in the growth of female entrepreneurs in the ecosystem. Owing to the low literacy rate and skills among a large number of women in India, traditional methods to improve employment opportunities for them in the private and public sectors are necessary. Still, these alone will not be enough to increase female workers into the economic system.  Organisations like Magic Bus India Foundation are focussing on the untapped opportunity for women; Entrepreneurship. One of the most powerful tools that can be used to nurture financial independence among women, as it has the potential to create jobs, fuel innovation, boost self-reliance and transform gender equations in society to transform India’s economy.

Magic Bus’ Entrepreneurship Development Programme supports aspiring entrepreneurs and helps stagnant micro-businesses to grow. This International Women’s Day 2021 we tell you the untold story of 22 year old Swapna Patil, Entrepreneur who graduated from the Magic Bus Entrepreneurship Development Programme. She runs a Computer Centre in Dabhad village, Maharashtra and is on her way to building her own fortune.

Swapna belongs to a lower middle class family with seven members. Her retired father, who worked in a Bhiwandi Municipal Corporation, had a difficult time raising his 4 daughters and a son. A family of seven living on a pension of Rs. 30,000 was arduous. “It was left to me and my sister to support our family,” explains Swapna. “While working at the MIT Computer Training Institute, I earned Rs. 6000 as remuneration. I managed to save a bit after spending on me and my brother’s educational expenses.”

Swapna enrolled in the Magic Bus Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) in Ambadi, Maharashtra, supported by TOMS Shoes. She believes she will be eternally indebted to Magic Bus for imparting the best skills, knowledge and guiding her throughout for the breakthrough in her career. “The sessions were very informative and helped me tremendously towards gaining an insight into business as also made me understand the drawbacks of the business. Later, Magic Bus’s EDP sessions taught me to learn to expand my business and make it more successful,” she assures. “The understanding, awareness and comprehension of the market study, marketing strategies, business documentation, to mention a few, have been immense learning lessons for me.”

Her association with Magic Bus has been longer than her training at the TOMS Shoes funded Entrepreneurship Development Programme Centre in Ambadi. She was  a Youth Mentor, conducting Magic Bus’ sports activity-based life skills sessions with children for a year before going on to work as a tutor at the MIT Computer Training Centre for 2 years. During her time with Magic Bus, she developed an inclination to help children in her village. In fact, her business idea of opening a computer centre came from an early realisation that children and young people in her village had no access to digital learning.

Today, Swapna is slowly building her business while giving back to her community. She has single-handedly doubled her family income giving much-needed confidence to her younger siblings. She is also a role model for girls in her neighbourhood.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/366440  *

About Magic Bus India Foundation:

From 3000 children in 1999 in Mumbai, Magic Bus has transformed the lives of over one million children and young people living in poverty, taking them from a childhood full of challenges to a life with meaningful livelihoods. Magic Bus is one of the largest poverty alleviation programmes running across 22 states and 81 districts in India, impacting 4,00,000 children and 35,000 young people. We deliver sessions in close to 1363 schools and in 1961 communities. Since the Livelihood programme began in 2015, we have over 50 livelihood skilling centres and 7 entrepreneurship incubation centres in high-need strategic locations in India. Through these livelihood centers, more than 35,000 young people have been trained and more than 70% placed in jobs in the organised sector with an average salary of INR 12000. Magic Bus also has programmes in Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar with 8912 children in 40 communities and 31 schools. We have networking and fundraising offices in the US, UK, Singapore and Germany.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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
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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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