It is hard to start something without any experience and support but it is even harder to break stereotypes and do something out of the ordinary. Shravani Pawar is one such person who chose the pass less taken.
She started a social enterprise called Safe Hands in Hubli, North Karnataka, where she and her team trains over 400 rural women and places them as security guards.
“Yes, it was challenging, especially when we have always seen men as security guards. It took a while to convince clients and even family members of these women that this can be a career option,” Pawar says.
Pawar always wanted a career in the social sector and completed her Bachelors in Social Work. Just after college she joined an NGO for six months. But, that wasn’t enough. She wanted to do much more for women empowerment so she joined Deshpande Foundation in Hubli to do get further training in this sector.
“Women work all day and take care of everything, still the decision making power is in men’s hand. I wanted to change the situation and break the stereotype that women can’t be security guards,” she says.
Going against the flow
Pawar’s family did not support her decision to quit her job and start something like this. Pawar initially did not tell them about her training fearing that they wouldn’t allow her to go for it.
“When I first told them about it they got a bit upset as they thought that business is risky, especially the one I was planning to do, but eventually they agreed with my decision,” she says.
I partnered with a friend of mine and started Safe Hands in 2009 to empower women and provide them better livelihood opportunities.
After some time, her friend left the organization and Shravani was on her own. But, this did not hold back her dreams. She continued her journey alone. Fortunately, she found a great ally and support in her husband, Shubas.
Empowering women in an unconventional way
“There are many areas where women can control the crowd in a better way as compared to men, like near schools, hospitals, parking lots, etc. So, we decided to train and place the rural women in such areas,” Pawar says.
The process of admitting these guards start by identifying the right candidates on the basis of their health and fitness. Emphasis is given to women from socially and economically weaker sections of the society. Subsequently, a lot of time is spent in convincing the families, as coming from a rural background, the families are not open to the idea of their daughters and wives wearing “men-like” clothes and working.
“That comes as a challenge, but then we counsel them and tell them about various employment benefits that we give and how useful it will be for their family if they had an extra source of income,” Pawar says.
Safe Hands also employ male guards for certain places when there is a special requirement by clients. But the primary focus is on getting the women engaged.
“The impact is great, both personally and professionally. These women have become independent now. They are more confident and manage to do most of their work by themselves, even the ones for which earlier they used to depend on their husbands,” Pawar says.
The organization that was initially funded by Deshpande Foundation is now self-sustainable and works on the commissions that they receive from the clients.
“I started with empty pockets and now I have a socal enterprise of my own; it has been a great journey,” Pawar says.
This has been an enlightening experience for Pawar. She now believes in listening to her heart rather than to others who are trying to bring you down.
Her plan is to build a training centre in Hubli where men and women from various parts of the country can get trained for the jobs.
Her two cents
“I would advice people to not lose your passion even if you face lot of difficulties as eventually you will get a good result for your hard works,” she says.
Pawar doesn’t believe in working for money. Rather, she advises to chase the passion, and money will eventually follow.
“Another important thing is to never hesitate in seeking help. People are more than happy to help a good cause. Have faith in what you are doing and seek help and advice if required,” she says.
Pawar started from scratch, without any money, resources and experience. She gradually made her way in this sector; she built trust and gave rural women a job opportunity that they had never imagined. Pawar’s journey is a lesson for all of us who want to bring a change but don’t have enough courage due to lack of support. She has shown that a good cause does not need support; it just needs passion and dedication.
You can visit the Safe Hands website for more details.