A unique initiative by Tata Communications and The Better India to support and educate women from small towns and villages in India is helping hundreds of others like Laxmi overcome barriers and become entrepreneurs. Here’s how.
This initiative is implemented in partnership with TATA Communications.
“Some say big dreams are not for everyone. I would’ve believed the same a few years ago. But I fear regret more than broken dreams so giving up was never an option,” says Laxmi Kumari.
A 41-year-old single mother based out of Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, Laxmi was not a stranger to broken dreams. She had to discontinue her education after Class 12 due to financial difficulties. Her parents could barely afford to sustain her and three other siblings and pursuing higher education seemed like a distant dream.
“I felt very helpless but I knew it could not be the end of my journey to find my independence. I wanted to do something that would allow me to stand on my feet. And for that I even enrolled in a beauty training course in 2011,” she shares. But before she could reap the results from her course and begin to work, she got married and her focus once again had to shift.
“I was blessed with a daughter in 2012 and then the next couple of years flew by with me doing the best for my family,” adds Laxmi. In all of this, once again Laxmi’s own voice, her identity and the dream to command her independence, took a backseat.
Then, yet another tragic experience threatened to upend her life in 2016, when she and her daughter separated from her husband. With almost no financial support from her husband, Laxmi found herself in an extremely vulnerable position.
“I didn’t want my daughter to miss out on any opportunity whatsoever. I wanted to give her a better life than I had and study as much as she wanted, but the financial burden of being a single parent was taking a toll on me but there was also a positive side to it,” says Laxmi who eventually decided to use this opportunity to complete her education and began to pursue Bachelors in Arts from The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 2016, she also began to take a teacher training course followed by counselling in 2017.
But getting a full-time job meant leaving her daughter back at home. “I wanted to be there for my daughter and help her with her studies, something that my mother who lives with me, couldn’t have done. So I was looking for an opportunity that allowed me to do both. I want to be an independent woman who is able to provide a good future to my daughter,” she adds.
In May 2021, the opportunity finally arrived when she came across a six-part inspirational video story of Hasrat Bano, narrated by The Better India and Tata Communications as part of their S.H.E. (School of Hope & empowerment) project.
It was the inspiring journey of Hasrat Bano, a homemaker-turned-entrepreneur from rural India. “Watching her story play out the everyday struggles of surviving, was like looking at myself in the mirror. That made me think, if she can do it then why can’t I?” says Laxmi, who wanted to start a parlour business and instantly applied to join the project S.H.E., an initiative to support and educate women from small towns and villages in India to overcome key barriers to entrepreneurship. Earlier in her life, much before the opportunity to restart her studies, she had done a short course as a beautician and the skill inspired her to start this business. She wanted to start a parlour that would cater to all women.
In a matter of two months, she received a call back with some brilliant news. Among more than 400 applications, she was one of the 30 selected rural women entrepreneurs.
“At first I couldn’t believe my ears. I was being given a grant worth Rs 50,000 to start my business and to finally attain the independence I always dreamed of. They were also training me and continuously guiding me in the journey of building and running a small business. From doing market research to maintaining a monthly planner they mentored me to understand the nuances of business and it has been extremely beneficial. But above everything, this opportunity gave me the most precious thing — hope,” concludes Laxmi, who is opening her own parlour in the next three months.