The Conception Of A Women Entrepreneurial Network

by | Dec 2, 2019

Women’s Integrated and Synergistic Empowerment (WISE) is a non-profit founded in March 2017 to promote women’s collectives to enhance their capabilities to make informed choices and gain access to financial and other resources. WISE has been promoted by Chaitanya, an organization based out of Maharashtra, founded in 1993 with the intent to promote rural women as community leaders of strong sustainable and self-reliant people’s institutions enabling access to finance and gender equity. Chaitanya provides capacity building support on strengthening of SHGs and financial sustainability through Self-Help-Group Federation framework.

WISE has started working in Maheshwar block of Khargone district where the intervention (with support from Capri Global Foundation) is to focus on Economic Empowerment of 3000 women weavers, garment manufacturers and various small women entrepreneurs by promoting a Women’s Entrepreneurial Network (WEN) that enables them to benefit from economies of scale and maximize employment generation and value creation. After five months of complete field immersion and community interactions, we identified certain areas which we choose to cater to:-

  • The status of artisan women in the trade, dominated by men
  • Irregular/no income, especially for women artisans
  • Middle-men causing exploitation
  • Poor wages to end women artisans

The objective of the rest of the post is to allow the readers to peep into the structured approach that followed to emerge with potential intervention plan and design. The first set of broad outcomes that we identified as a team were:-

  1. A platform that would give women a space to get regular work and enable the women collectives to sell their products
  2. Teaching them stitching and other finishing techniques for value addition to the skill they already have and gain a bigger share in the value chain
  3. Bringing innovation in terms of product range and design
  4. Connecting the weavers with national as well as international markets
  5. Informing the weavers, artisans about the subsidies and support that the government provides

As of today, there are 50+ SHG/JLGs fully functioning in Maheshwar. They are formed with utmost effort to uphold the guiding values of an ideal SHG. Subsequently, after forming the groups we had to start the entrepreneurial activities so that we create a channel by which a woman can gain some skill and start their own enterprise. For conducting a range of trainings we had to organize women into activity/skill specified groups i.e. WEN.

Women Entrepreneurial Network (WEN) is a network of women which aims at identifying and nurturing the innate talents of women by mobilizing them into collectives. The network aims at mobilizing women into small collectives focusing on identifying their skills, training and building entrepreneurs out of them so that they can have access to market and other resources.

Keeping this deliverable in head we formulated certain objectives which were to provide: –

  1. Economic empowerment through self-reliant and self-sustained federation
  2. Formation of a Standard Operating Process by inculcating a regular habit of savings/credit and debits of savings and pensions
  3. Formation of a Women Entrepreneurial Network – to conduct training for skill development of women which will lead in their increased economic status
Making a presentation, on how to start a micro enterprise of their own

In order to fulfill our objectives we started off with our activities in various WENS, the activities were designed such that it includes the outputs and outcomes which we expect by conducting such activity. Post which what are the results we are expected to get by conducting such an activity, the kind of learning’s we are getting and what will be our next plan.

The Advent Of “Kala Sutr”

Kala Sutr is the brand name coined in Maheshwar which sells products made by various women entrepreneurial collectives. It is a unique range of products indigenously designed and hand crafted by small-scale women entrepreneurs of Madhya Pradesh. ‘Kala’ signifies the skilled craft the women innately possess and ‘Sutr’ signifies thread – one common factor that unites all skillful women and links them into one big Entrepreneurial Network! All the products made by various WENS are hence marketed and sold under the name of KALA SUTR.

In one of the WEN jewelry design sessions

Our first WEN was formed in June 2019, comprising of fifteen members of two SHG’s. The idea was to use leftover threads from the looms to make a new product. Thus, the idea of thread jeweler took shape, the group used to have weekly meetings where they decided what and how to make the product and met regularly for two hours to make the jewelry. Their handmade jewelry went on for sale in Delhi and Indore in its first phase, later they also showcased their jewelry in Feronia Fashion Night an event organized in Indore. Here the models wore the jewelry handcrafted by these women. We have successfully identified our local potential buyers, and the group tries to make jewelry according to the demands to the buyers. They also keep a record of things procured, products sold and their upcoming plans that they wish to implement.

So, far our experiment to reuse the available materials has been successful, but we have also realized that there are different demands from different section of buyers. Also, we had to have a series of discussions on how do we market our products well so that we can get diligent buyers for our products, which help the women can earn some decent amount. Our next objective is to conduct trainings of jewelry making for up scaling our existing WEN and also in other federations in Indore and Ujjain, so that another bunch of women our ready to get skilled and have a new source of income for themselves.

In one of the WEN Silayi meeting, where we discussed about providing training where women will learn how to stitch showroom ready clothes and various other styles and designs in stitching

Our Bunkar WEN has recently participated in a fashion show mentioned above. Where the models in the show wore the saris, dupattas procured from the weavers in our SHG/JLGs. Also, we used the Maheshwari fabric to make a collection of men’s wear. The apparel collection and participation of women weavers was a huge success. The weavers also walked the ramp along with the models. They were also interviewed by big media houses. Post the show there has been a humongous positive response, the confidence among women artisans has increased. Now we can see a sense of self confidence and assertiveness in the decisions they take to implement their work.

Along with it there was training held for Silayi WEN. A trainer from Indore came down to Maheshwar, to train the women in making a quality and show ready products. The clothes, which the model wore, were stitched by the women from the SHG/JLGs. Post the show the trained women are now training other SHGs in making finished goods. They have trained our other WEN as well such as Bag WEN, to make a showroom ready bags, and now we are looking into avenues to sell their products in various platforms, such as online and local markets as well. We have also been looking into various exhibitions happening around the city so that we can participate and help the women to access market and sell their products.

This is how we plan to work with WEC i.e. Women Entrepreneurial Collective in the days to come, the formation of such kind of groups will not only help us enable easy management of the system of the social enterprise but also will be a role model for others to learn how to manage any business. These are early days – but our morale is high and we aspire to make WEN into what it potentially can in the time to come!

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  1. Swati Saxena

    Waiting to read your reflections. Information on Kala Sutra sounds repetitive now.

  2. Swati Saxena

    Waiting to read your reflections. Information on Kala Sutra sounds repetitive now.


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