The Constitution guarantees the Right to Equality under Article 14. It mandates that all citizens, irrespective of their genders, caste, creed and financial background, be treated equally by the law. However, gender equality has been a struggle for women. Since time immemorial, women have been the more disadvantaged and vulnerable section of society. When women were confined to caregiving, childbirth and the kitchen were long gone. Yet, there are several professional fields in which women are under-represented.
For instance, with 13.5 million to 15.7 million women leading businesses, women-owned enterprises still account for only 20 percent of the total number of enterprises. In urban settings, women are taking up jobs in the organized sector; however, in rural settings, a woman's work is still considered a moral responsibility and is unaccounted for. Lack of financial independence leaves several thousand women at the behest of their male counterparts for small decisions in life.
However, several government initiatives are increasingly emphasizing women taking up entrepreneurial roles and identifying their potential. Her&Now is an Indo-German bilateral project implemented by GIZ in India, on behalf of the German government's cabinet level Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. Under the Government of India, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) is partaking in the initiative.
What Is Her&Now?
The four-year project, initiated in 2018, is implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH – a German development agency working globally in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development – and aims to create a more enabling environment for women-led enterprises in India. The ongoing project has already extended support to over 800 women entrepreneurs from various parts of India, helping them transform their business ideas into enterprises and set their existing businesses onto a sustainable growth track.
While explaining to The Logical Indian about the project, Julia Karst, Head of Project Her&Now, says, "On the ground, we test, develop and pilot the incubation acceleration programs for more than 800 entrepreneurs in total. The project runs in 12 different Indian states, including eight states in the North-East Region, Rajasthan, Telangana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. The main focus is on Tier-2 and tier-3 cities, so it is more of an urban environment than rural".
Helping Women In Tier-2, Tier-3 Cities
The project's main objective was to step out of the tier-1 metropolitan cities because similar programs do exist to some extent. While responding to the question of why the project was focussing on tier-2 and tier-3 cities, Karst tells The Logical Indian, "Those are the places we felt did not have a functional ecosystem for entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, you could find several growth-oriented businesses that have a potential for growth in smaller cities. We wanted to showcase how women entrepreneurs showcase leading enterprises at a larger scale".
The project is working with micro-entrepreneurs that could create employment further for people. On average, the entrepreneurs under the project have three employees but can offer large-scale jobs. Karst said, "When we started, our goal was to incubate over 400 entrepreneurs; however, until now, we have set over 800 women entrepreneurs. We are helping women transform their business idea into an enterprise.
The project has already partnered with entities like Dhriiti (for North-East India), Startup Oasis (for Rajasthan), and WE Hub (for Telangana) for effective on-ground implementation in various local regions of the country. Together with these local partners, GIZ GmbH runs incubation and acceleration support programmes for women entrepreneurs in several tier II and tier III cities. The project equips select women entrepreneurs with critical business skills and offers customized support through mentorship, access to market opportunities and peer networks, linkages to financial institutions, and so on.
Women Entrepreneurs Who Made A Mark
Among the many examples, Her&Now shares with The Logical Indian the story of Tanushree Jain, the founder of Nushaura. This social enterprise works with rural and tribal women artisans from marginalized communities across India to create sustainable and affordable aromatherapy products like candles. She started her business to improve her quality of life, post living in a big city where high pollution and low quality of living were affecting her health. Her passion led to the creation of livelihood opportunities for over 800 artisans from marginalized communities from rural and remote villages in India for their socio-economic development with an environmentally conscious business model (2018)- delivering high quality, sustainable everyday products and merchandise to a market saturated with harmful products.
The second example is Runa, the founder of Blue Planet Amalgamated, dealing in Agriculture and Allied Sector. It is a commercial pig breeding farm. Her target customers are the entrepreneur farmers who want to start their piggery units. In 2020, Runa diversified her business and moved on to livestock farming. Runa's business ideas are distinctive. Today, her brand 'Saraighat Farm' caters to fresh meat. She has also started selling antibiotics-free chicken and is planning to process brand, and supply Pati duck, an indigenous breed of Assam, and local chicken. She also launched the smoked meat brand 'DhowaSang', selling authentic Northeast flavoured smoked varieties of duck, fish, and chicken and promoting local food culture through her business.
Runa decided to empower rural women through backyard poultry. Many Assamese rural women traditionally rear chickens and ducks in the backyard of their house. She used these small enterprises for her business. At present, she has trained 100 women farmers in raising antibiotic-free chicken. Previously associated with 'Operation Smile' of the Assam Government as a Senior Manager, the entrepreneur had to think long and hard before finally taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. She had to make an immense sacrifice and give up her cushy job to make the foray into entrepreneurship.
With an apt motto and tagline, "Her Time Is Now", the campaign will complement the on-ground mother project and be instrumental in bringing to the fore thought-provoking, unique stories of countless women who are shedding stereotypes overcoming challenges to fuel their entrepreneurship dreams.