The Udyogini programme was set up in 1992 under the World Banks initiative to co-ordinate and facilitates management training for grass root women’s group under Women's Enterprise Management Training Outreach Program (WEMTOP). In conversation with Ms. Rita Sengupta, Chairperson, Udyogini, we bring to you the perspective and objective of the organisation highlighting its major achievements over the decades.
Udyogini was set up with an objective to impart entrepreneurship training to tribal women to improve their management skills as producers and their knowledge of the markets. India has a total of 593 districts out of which 187 have been identified as tribal district comprising of 60.4% of the total forest cover. The tribal population pursues primary occupations like farming, hunting, fishing etc. The produce is sold in a rather low or meager price in the rural market, to improve this scenario Udyogini is striving to build a strong Rural-Tribal market link which would enable these tribal producers to gain a higher price for their produce which is essential to increase natural resource based production, generate economic growth and reducing hunger and poverty, the economic turbulence faced by the tribal population is well explained by Ms. Riya, she says “In past decades, economic growth, shifting population dynamics, and climate change have taken place so rapidly and intensely that traditional livelihood strategies and adaptation mechanisms are losing their efficacy. The changing global environment and societal changes mean that opportunities need to be generated locally for these rural tribal people to strengthen and adapt niche product and service systems to tackle the chronic and growing poverty.”
The tribal households are run by equal contributions from the working man and women in the family. The biggest roadblock faced by primary occupation is accessibility to market, as majority of people working under this sector belong to tribal areas. The markets have also adapted themselves to constraint women by their lack of understanding and ability to negotiate, therefore Udyoginis prime focus is to assist poor and women in improving their access to markets is now recognized as critical element of any strategy to enable them to enhance their food security and increase their incomes. The market focused approach designed by Udyogini targets on improving the rural-tribal poor and women access to markets and seeks ways to effectively increase the market share of the rural poor and improve the terms in which they participate in markets, achieve greater market access and market development for the rural poor and effectively improve at national, regional and international levels the rules of trade in favor of the rural poor.
Udyogini presently is active in 5 states including Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where they are educating women about quality business services and developing skills required to survive in the current market conditions.
Further shedding light on the impacts that Udyogini has had in the region she says, “It has been observed that with increased income women’s participation in decision making have also increased, and the best experience that Udyogini witnessed is that mostly women invest their increased income in their children’s better future by providing then better educational and health services.
National and State Rural Livelihood Mission have acknowledged our efficiency and effectiveness and hence have taken our services to build the capacity of local farmers, in Jharkhand, in adoption of scientific cultivation of Lac to increase the production by 2 to 3 times leading to enhanced income by 50% to 70%.”
Udyogini is associated with over 50,000 producers and their families involved in different sectors of business like (Lac, vegetables (tomato), Silk, honey, Mahua, Pulses, Embroidery, Incense Sticks, Spices and herbs, Goat rearing, Imitation Jewelry and Poultry, inducing them with aptitude, attitude and skillset required, especially training women producers around business idea generation, feasibility, planning, business costing, pricing and assessing of BEP, market negotiation (working with market).
Despite working with vulnerable / marginalized community engaged in natural resource (forestry, farm, livestock) and non-farm based enterprises, Udyogini has been facing multiple drawbacks that envelope these zones like poor infrastructure natural resource degradation, poor productivity and carrying capacity, high population pressure, poor investment in water use efficiency, lack of appropriate technologies, lack of assured and remunerative marketing opportunities and poor market tie-ups are impeding economic development of the area, which is tackled by them using multiple strategies, which Ms. Riya explains as, “Udyogini’s two decade of experience as an advisory and practicener institution to alleviate poverty and bring gender equality through the market reveal that the above challenges could be addressed through multi-pronged strategy that focuses on upgrading, basket approach and social security services.”
The existing gender disparity faced by Indian women portrays the deteriorating social stage of our society. The disparity runs across the social, economic and political lines that shackle the development of women in all existing spheres, Udyogini aims at dissolving these lines, especially empowering poor and marginalized women to have equitable opportunities and access to resources/services. Discussing the impacts the 2017 budget would have on this issue she said, “Allocation for women and children welfare increased from Rs 1.56 lakh crore to Rs 1.84 lakh crore. More needs to be done in the proper implementation of the programmes with gender lens and mainstreaming. Skill India is focussing on placement, which is not benefiting women in rural areas, so skill and entrepreneurship should be given equal emphasis which may result in more and more women engaging/ participating in building and growing rural enterprises. More focus on the women at the grassroots for enterprise building and sustenance is the need at this hour.”
Being training for entrepreneurship, management, gender development for 25 years, Ms. Riya states that an entraprenuer should be driven by desire to achieve and excel their goals, sense opportunity and act to grab the same with persistence and persuasion.
We decide to wrap up our informational session by asking her for a message that she would like to give message to the budding women entrepreneurs in the country, she says, “The true essence of empowering self is to locate the power within. The power to utilize the knowledge, position, skills and competencies to its best should be the real spirit of women in 21st century. This century belongs to women and let it be proved holistically.”
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