Monday, December 11, 2023

Women become role models for community through enterprise building

Tata Steel Foundation and CII-IWN host Kaleidoscope

Jamshedpur, Dec. 18: Whether it be Aruna Tirkey’s passion for tribal cuisine, Akli Tudu’s zeal to make a difference or Nilima Tigga’s determination to link women entrepreneurs with financial capital, the journeys of these women brought to the fore inspiring narratives of converting difficulties into opportunities. The third session of Kaleidoscope dived head on into exploring the exemplary work and philanthropic intent underlining some women-led enterprises.

Hailing from Ranchi, Aruna Tirkey has been passionate about tribal food since childhood. But, lack of opportunities and resources limited her progress in the field until she took a leap of faith. With the support of family and friends, she started a food outlet in Ranchi, Ajam Emba (Kuruk for delicious food). What started as a small joint with an initial capital of just Rs. 500 has now transformed into a very popular tribal cuisine restaurant.

“I always wanted to take tribal cuisine to the world but women in our community shy from dreaming big, given the challenges surrounding us. I had to knock on many doors to convince people of my idea. I consider myself fortunate to get married into a family that supported me in my journey and I was able to give wings to my dream,” said Aruna.

The initiative, which taps into the vast bank of indigenous knowledge about unique food items, has been recognized nationally on various platforms. Pivoting around the farm to plate, end-to-end value chain concept, Aruna aspires to create sustainable livelihood opportunities through Ajam Emba for more than 1,000 farmers and 100 tribal women. Her mission is focused on tribal food revival as a means to strengthen culture and identity, create women entrepreneurship and local employment and promote re-integration of nutritional and healthy tribal foods into the local palate with a special focus on younger generation.

Like Aruna, Akli Tudu from the Gorabanda block of East Singhbhum has become an inspiration for promoting pond-based livelihoods in her community. Disgruntled with perpetual shortage of water, Akli took up the challenge to create ponds to ensure a sustainable model of farming. Garnering support from several Self Help Group members, Akli established Jumid Tirla Gawnta Trust in 2014 that has since been able to dig 71 ponds and seven drinking water facilities in the block.

Unlike Aruna, she had to face a lot of hurdles. “In the beginning, I faced threat from extremists and out of fear my family also stopped supporting me. False police complaints and unreasonable monetary demands from the extremist groups came in my way but, I did not stop. My desire to change the status quo was greater than my fear. Today, I have enormous support, both, from the villagers and the local administration,” she said. More than 2,300 farmers have benefitted through the ponds and integrated farming initiatives, she leads.

Nilima Tigga from Lohardaga, also started small. Having undergone a training on shri vidhi, she applied this system of rice cultivation on her 1 acre land. “In my family we could hardly save 5 rupees during any given week. My land yielded paddy that would last not more than 2 months. So when I started cultivating my land with this new technique, people considered me insane but I did not mind. That year my land yielded paddy that lasted 3 years.”

Nilima shared this knowledge with people who believed in her and gradually got involved in imparting extensive agriculture-related trainings. Over the years, she has facilitated 10,000 women in setting up micro enterprises through linkages with banks and Microfinance institutions. She has facilitated a corpus loan of seven crore for rural women to start up their own businesses. She is also the proud recipient of CII Foundation Women Exemplar Award in the Micro-Enterprise category in 2019.

At Kaleidoscope, Aruna, Akli and Nilima narrated their stories and engaged in a frank conversation with Dr. Malavika Chauhan, who Heads the Rural Upliftment and Civil Society portfolios at the Tata Trusts. She has a PhD in ecology with 15 years of experience in biodiversity and wetlands. Dr. Chauhan is currently based out of the Trusts Mumbai offices and works with a core team to develop strategy, and manage the grants program of the rural development and civil society portfolios of the Trusts. She has been awarded many fellowships, national and international, including a Global Environmental Facility Fellow at East Anglia University, UK.

Speaking about the panelists, Swastika Basu, Chairwoman, CII-IWN Jharkhand Chapter & Chief-Enterprise Risk Management, Tata Steel Limited welcomed the panelists and participants and stated, ‘Fighting the lack of accessibility and neglect, these women have turned problems into opportunities. By connecting agriculture and forest produce with markets using technology, creation of self-help groups, empowering women, and creating self-sustainable enterprises, these women entrepreneurs are changing the face of India. We respect their wisdom and their invaluable knowledge will help us with innovative ideas to improve the livelihood and environment security in the villages and in their surroundings.’

Sourav Roy, Convenor, CII Jharkhand CSR & Skill Development Panel and Chief-Corporate Social Responsibility, Tata Steel Limited expressed, ‘We remain in awe of the humility with which these extra-ordinary women run their enterprises and create revolutionary paths. This edition of Kaleidoscope is an effort to provide a platform to the entrepreneurial spirit residing in women of mettle and to give due recognition to the collective impact created, which they remain humbly unaware of. Having traversed the life journeys of 9 women over three conversations, we look forward to highlighting more such inspiring narratives in the upcoming webinars.’ 

Kaleidoscope is a series of 5 webinars, co-hosted by Tata Steel Foundation and CII-Indian Women Network Jharkhand Chapter, which looks to weave beautiful patterns between the apparently disconnected worlds and contexts of women from deep rural hinterlands of India and women professionals and entrepreneurs who are setting benchmarks in urban and peri-urban contexts. 

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