These tribal women have been self-empowering themselves to come out of the underprivileged women zone
A group of tribal women from the Bhadrachalam Agency made a significant leap into entrepreneurship by self-empowering themselves by establishing a soap and shampoo manufacturing facility in Bhadrachalam, capitalizing on their rich heritage of handicraft culture. The resourceful action towards women empowerment supported by the Telangana State Girijan Co-operative Corporation (TSGCC), aims to take advantage of the market’s expanding demand for natural toiletries made by tribal women.
In the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector, the TSGCC assisted as many as 15 tribal women from diverse regions of the Bhadrachalam Agency in forming a joint liability group (JLG) called the Dammakka Group and setting up a soap manufacturing unit at an estimated cost of 40 lakh.
The JLG members have received training in producing soaps from natural papaya, aloe vera, and other plant-based components at a specialized institute in Hyderabad. The initiative, which is a crucial component of the TSGCC’s ambitious growth strategy, aims to boost the income of underprivileged women and farmers as well as the local economy. The facility, established by the Dammakka JLG in Bhadrachalam, recently began producing aloe vera shampoos under the well-known “Giri” brand of the TSGCC.
Glycerine soaps, one of the most popular toiletries throughout the winter, are about to begin manufacture. With consistent encouragement from Project Officer Bhadrachalam Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) V. P. Gautham, the entrepreneurial endeavor of tribal women got physical form.
Another group of tribal women, Sanadei Dhuruwa, 39, Promila Krishna, 39, Lalita Nayak, 40, Parbati Gadba, 42, and Nabita Barika, 41, have been self-empowering themselves. Meet the women of Kundra block from Koraput district in Odisha. The others haven’t gone to school past the elementary level, with the exception of Promila who graduated. However, when introducing oneself to a stranger, they wouldn’t think twice to state their title such as director, promoter, etc. And of course with a big smile and confidence.
They have effectively led Mauli Ma Producer Company Limited (MMPCL) in Kundra for the past five years. Promila is the chairman of this business, which has 522 female stockholders from 36 unremarkable villages in eight gram panchayats. “We can all sign our names,” says Lalita, a director.
It is not just MMPCL. In the Boipariguda, Dasmantpur, Laxmipur, and Bandhugaon blocks of Koraput, there are four other businesses of this type that are registered under the Companies Act of 2013. A few more are currently registering.
The shareholders (members) of these tribal women-led businesses make up about 85% of the population and come from the Bhumia, Paraja, Banjara, Kondh, Gadaba, and Durua tribes. They are all insignificant or marginal farmers.
According to Ramesh Chandra Swain, senior program manager of the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD), a renowned NGO operating in the Koraput area for more than three decades, there is a great deal of enthusiasm among the tribal women in starting their own business and self-empowering themselves.
He recalls that the barter system was popular in these regions earlier as he tells the tale of these farmer-producer organizations (FPOs). The underprivileged women farmers had trouble selling their extra produce and suffered from distress sales. The CYSD addressed the concept with them in 2015. The women took some to be convinced, but once they were, they haven’t turned around from creating women empowerment around them.
The business owners also recognize the CYSD’s ongoing back-end assistance. Every organization conducts an annual audit and submits an IT return as is customary.
According to Jagadananda, a co-founder of CYSD and a former information commissioner, illiteracy among tribal girls and women remains a significant problem in isolated tribal areas. However, there are other limitations as well. It is by no means an easy task for individuals to attempt, establish, and manage an enterprise.
But when such businesses succeed in the face of severe adversity while self-empowering themselves, the joy knows no bounds.