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Empowering women entrepreneurs in India 

India Programme / Partner story

Image © Oak Foundation

In rural Assam and West Bengal, a growing number of female entrepreneurs are making their mark on India’s thriving industries, by harnessing their skills, resources, and confidence to establish and manage their businesses independently. 

This is being achieved with the help of the America India Foundation, which brings together six partner organisations that provide digital, financial, and strategic support to women and youth working in the tea gardens, the handloom industry, and farming. The organisations work closely with local communities and governments to provide a rural women’s programme called Udyamini, which seeks to foster a robust environment in which women entrepreneurs can thrive. Each organisation has a different approach to addressing the barriers that women face, and the programme seeks to create secure employment opportunities, provide access to legal benefits and safety nets, and increase recognition for the women’s contribution to the value chain.  

“What I feel is that women are born entrepreneurs,” says Tonmoie Sherma, deputy programme manager for Udyamini. “Because all the traits that need to be present in an entrepreneur are already there – they are managing the household, the domestic unit, the enterprise of love, the enterprise of care. So when we recognise their aspirations, and give them a space to grow, and recognise the challenges that they are facing, and find solutions that help them grow in the space, and realize their aspirations, then this is how we can celebrate women every day, not just on a particular day.”  

For example, ‘Pashu Sakhis’ are groups of local women who are trained in goat rearing through workshops and capacity-building programmes. As well as learning about goat husbandry, they also learn the business side of things, as goat rearing is profitable and has a low entry point investment. Since July 2023, 50 Pashu Sakhis have done the training, and can in turn train other women in their community. The tea industry is also being transformed, in the hope of enabling fair compensation for women tea garden workers, the unsung heroes of this sector.  

Watch the video below to learn about the Udyamini programme, and discover more about the rural women entrepreneurship ecosystem in the International Women’s Day podcast

Oak Foundation supports the American India Foundation Trust, which you can find out more about here. The Udyamini programme seeks to establish inclusive and environmentally sustainable micro, small and medium enterprises, with a focus on women and youth. This support falls under our India Programme, which aims to support equitable opportunities for all. You can learn more about our India programme here