To read part 1, please go here.
Continuing the series of personal stories of women in an attempt to explore how change can manifest itself…
Not Just About Money
Reena’s* family business of selling Maheshwari Sarees was up and running when she got married. However, she had not worked on her shop except for ensuring that it was not left unattended. After nearly 15 years of marriage, she began going to her shop each morning mainly for cleaning and maintenance. During the lockdown, she got associated with Kala Maitri, an initiative by Chaitanya and began selling her sarees through the marketing network. To do it well, she was required to click and send quality photographs for online marketing. Additionally she had to regularly update the staff on availability of sarees, something she had not done before.
For someone who did not actively participate in her business, managing the association with Kala Maitri independently was commendable and also unlike other associations of the network. Over the span of about 3 months, Reena managed to sell sarees worth nearly Rs. 60,000. The process of clicking aesthetically sound pictures, keeping a tab on the accounts and managing her customer base through Kala Maitri was new to her, but she arose to the challenge and learned along the way.
Monetary benefits aside, Reena has grown as lot as a professional. She now has the aspiration and the confidence to strengthen her business, something that she now sees as her own.
Her goals for the next few months include getting better at managing customer relationships and expanding the reach of her business. We have that her association with us will serve as a platform where she could realize her full potential of being a businessperson.
Against All Odds
Meenal* lives with her family in a village near Maheshwar. Their primary occupation is farming. In addition to agriculture, her family is involved in a small business for better financial stability. While the availability of money is not a concern for Meenal, mobility sometimes is. In additional to that, not having access to a phone or a steady mode of communication can be a severely limiting factor in the process of finding a job.
After being associated with Kala Maitri for a while, Meenal found an opportunity to get work and hone her tailoring skills. She is now able to work from home, by stitching various products like pouches and masks. But the more important aspect is the increase in mobility and access to resources. Since working on silaai orders require her to come to Maheshwar often, she is now beginning to take the bus alone, something she could not easily do earlier.
Moreover, she now keeps a phone which previously would be used by children or her husband as she did not have much utility for it. Working and delivering products also means frequently communicating with our team members, and so, having a phone helps a great deal. When asked why she wants to be a part of the Kala Maitri network, she says that she wants to start her own business one day, and develop her identity outside of just being a homemaker.
After losing her husband a few years ago, Sonali* also lost a few other family members in unfortunate incidents. Having two young boys to provide for, she moved back to her parents’ home. They have been supportive and providing for her as well as her children’s needs. But her struggle does not end here. Losing the family members has impacted her in severe ways.
Worried of society’s perception of her, Sonali stopped stepping outside her home. Since her father was taking care of the finances, she was convinced that she does not have any reason to work or go anywhere. However, this was debilitating and adding to her mental burden. After being convinced to become a member in an SHG, Sonali began interacting with women outside her family. Our staff members also motivated her to use her tailoring skills and make a living for herself.
After multiple attempts of mustering the everyday courage, taking one step after another, she finally stepped out of her home and came to the office with her sons to work on one of Kala Maitri’s orders. Her skills and talent were never an issue, but her low self-confidence kept her from realizing her full potential. With an impeccable work ethic, Sonali would take feedback without any reluctance and constantly work towards improving herself in all ways.
While being able to earn is definitely a change worth admiring, the real achievement, according to her, is that she is finally letting go of fear.
*Name changed to maintain confidentiality