‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ – Chinese Philosopher Lau Tzu

Feb 14, 2012 | Posted by admin in Campus Corner, Events & Happenings   1 Comment »

Prayaas -2011, an initiative taken by Welingkar Institute of Management to help women entrepreneurs has reached a stage where the efforts seem to be nearing fruition as their aspirations take shape.

While the network of micro-finance sector is growing by leaps and bounds giving a boost to economy and paving the way for rural women to come into mainstream of social life in a big way, it has taken its own time to incubate and grow in the urban environment. To encourage the participation of women whose talent and potential had hitherto remained untapped and unutilized due to personal and social reasons, Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research (WeSchool)  through its social initiative   ‘PRAYAAS ‘ is trying to help  the urban woman discover themselves and their entrepreneurial potential.  As a part of the ongoing series   WeSchool  had organised  a  day-long  training program on ‘Management of Savings and Credit Group’ at its campus on Feb 5, 2012

Thanks to the support extended by the enthusiastic media, 45 women consisting largely of graduates, with a lawyer, an MSW and a well known nutritionist, along with three men who were social workers from the slums of Dharavi had registered themselves for the training, so all in all there was an interesting, eclectic group that had assembled in the amphitheatre at WeSchool on the bright Sunday morning.

Godavari and Jayashri, the trainers for the session had travelled all the way from remote villages near Tuljapur where they are actively associated with SWAYAM SHIKSHAN PRAYOG (SSP) an NGO that works for empowerment of women through microfinance. Godavari, a seasoned SSP Cluster Worker for Salgara and Kakramba Villages has built 45-20 SHG groups with a strong and united membership of 500 women. In 2004 she was made the secretary of the federation of SHGs in her district, a position she holds till date. In December 2005, SSK, a micro-finance company, was formed which gave women more access to loans and the status of the federation dramatically changed. As the federation secretary, she oversees activities related to community-based enterprises (CBEs) like Retail marketing, Health Mutual Fund,  Toilet construction Unit  and ‘Adharam’ the markets a smokeless ‘stove’ which works with biodegradable pellets as fuel ,which is turning to be such a blessing for the rural women. It was quite  heartening to see the semi educated, simple rural women sharing ‘gyan’ about small savings and credit groups with their better educated urban sisters.

The first session began with orientation on Swayam Shikshan Prayog’s work and continued in a flow with Assessment of  group functioning ,Benefits of SCG ,Membership & Meetings , Record keeping / accounts, Leadership training, Interaction with banks, Entrepreneurship training and maintenance of transparency in operations. The last session drove the point home by focusing on what everyone was waiting for –the businesses that women can do either singly or as a group and the social issues that could be addressed collectively. In fact this session took many of them down memory lane to the earlier training for women entrepreneurs where Prof Kaustubh had focused on need identification, opportunity spotting, concept generation and made them ask those Five vital questions that every entrepreneur must ask, followed by the inimitable Kaizen expert Dr Gondhalekar when he had given them the mantra of   “how to find your own niche in an owner managed business’

As the sessions progressed the participants were getting more and more impressed by the complete ease with which the simple trainer duo went on to explain the various facets of micro-credit, used the mike and all other teaching aids like white board-marker pens, stepped into each other’s shoes when one of them went a little out of breath and carried each session on to its fruitful end. The songs penned by the women brought  ‘josh’ in the post-lunch session and the little game introduced by them at the end drove the point home about setting up a small business and nurturing it to growth.

” As a leading B- School in the country, Teaching, Research and Social outreach are integral to the core activities of WeSchool. Prayaas 2011 is a long term venture of ours to awaken the spirit and encourage the women to be successful entrepreneurs. They have taken the first few hesitant steps where WeSchool came forward to give them a hand and hopefully they will soon step out of the shadows and be on their own as successful entrepreneurs. A woman who earns and has a control over her own money becomes strong, secure and is able to support and motivate others. Social empowerment, such as self-esteem, leadership in the community, economic empowerment, such as running own ventures, accessing financial services, managing money and improving livelihoods are the key factors that will make Indian women strong and the leaders of change in the times to come.”  Prof Dr Uday Salunkhe, Group Director-WeSchool shared his thoughts about the new women-centric initiative.

For the participants the takeaways were many. It became very clear to them  that micro-credit is no longer limited to buying that one odd sewing machine, a cow  or setting a flour mill by a lone women or two in remote corners of India, it is movement initiated and grown to gigantic proportions by these  simple women like Godavari, Jayashri, Shanti, Vaishali, Shobha and thousands like them across the country who are not only setting up businesses to retail household groceries, health insurance policies, solar lanterns and panels, Oorja stoves, water filters and Chotucool fridges to the rural population and improving the qualities lives but are  transforming social structures through innovative initiatives in health and sanitation, improved public health services, education, village administration, collective farming and food security, renewable energy and disaster mitigation. Micro finance has become an important tool of poverty alleviation. The success of micro finance has attracted bigger financial institutions who have now taken to it as a social objective. These are joined by state and the local self-government. Until very recently, urban microfinance was thought to be impossible — especially in Mumbai, due to its complex client base but it is a challenge worth taking. And as they had taken the first steps, there was no looking back. The journey has begun…

One Response to “‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ – Chinese Philosopher Lau Tzu”

  1. padma says:

    it was wonderful experience to be a part of prayas. we look forward to share many more experiences like this in future.

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