Assam: Udyamita Mela held in Kamrup for women entrepreneurs
Women entrepreneurs in the Udyamita Mela 2022

Boko: Dhriiti: The Courage Within and the InterGlobe Foundation organized Udyamita Mela 2022 at Shanti Nizora Club, Bamunigaon Camp, Kamrup on Tuesday.

The event was organized to celebrate women entrepreneurship in the Chhaygaon/Bangaon region and provide a platform for local government bodies like the Chhaygaon and Bangaon Block Development Office, various local & national NGOs working in the region, Self Help Groups (SHGs) and individual entrepreneurs to come together, create a strong network and build a system for rural women entrepreneurship.

The Udyamita Mela also marked the successful implementation of Project Pragati (Arecanut Leaf Plate Cluster development initiative) by Dhriiti: The Courage Within and InterGlobe Foundation in the region in partnership with Tamul Plates Marketing Pvt. Ltd. The Udyamita Mela felicitated the women entrepreneurs associated with Project Pragati who completed their 4-year long journey of women entrepreneurship.

The program was designed to be a learning and sharing space for rural women entrepreneurs. Sessions were conducted by the Bangaon and Chhaygaon Block Office on the farm and nonfarm livelihoods, financial inclusion and digital finance implemented through the Block Development Office

To expose the women to relatable role models, sessions were conducted by Ms Runa Rafique, (Founder,  Blue Planet Amalgamated), Ms Monalisa Borthakur (Founder, Amby Gold, Guwahati) and Ms Podumi Boro,(a local entrepreneur and founder, Yugadrasta Lokabastra Industry, Bamunigaon) with a vision to motivate more women from the region to choose the path of entrepreneurship. 

‘This is a momentous occasion for us at Dhriiti. Project Pragati has been successful in creating a very positive ecosystem for the development of Arecanut Leaf Plate Manufacturing in the region. Over the last 4 years, the project has built the Arecanut leaf plate manufacturing cluster with 30 women entrepreneurs with a home-based manufacturing set-up and 350 women raw material collectors and machine operators,” Anirban Gupta, Co-founder, Dhriiti.

“This Udyamita Mela is a celebration of not only the women entrepreneurs of Project Pragati but also of women entrepreneurship in the region. We sincerely believe that this celebration and recognition will motivate many more rural women to choose the path of Women Entrepreneurship in the region,” Gupta said.

‘InterGlobe Foundation is pleased to have partnered with Dhriiti to realise the goals of- economic independence and self-reliance for women in rural Assam. IGF internalizes the fact that independence coupled with a deep orientation of other social issues would pave the way for women to gain agency and voice to manage their commons. Nurturing their strengths and leadership abilities while promoting natural resources based small enterprises amongst these women from diverse backgrounds had deeply satisfying outcomes for all stakeholders,’ Dr Monica Banerjee, Head, IGF, said.

Project Pragati – A brief understanding

The story of a dinner plate begins from an areca nut palm tree. With the vicinity dotted with areca nut trees, most of the women saw them as a source for Tamuland its sheath a waste material that at most was used to make temporary boundary walls in homes. When the project first introduced the product to the people during the mobilization camps, no one believed that waste material can be converted into a durable plate, a product that has a profitable market not only in India but across the world. The making of an eco-friendly disposable plate goes through a process of leaf gathering, drying, sorting, cleaning, production, packaging and above all marketing, making the whole activity a business for many micro and nano woman entrepreneurs.

Dhriiti has been working in Bangaon and Chhaygaon Block in rural Kamrup District Assam through its intervention, Project Pragati supported by InterGlobe Foundation. The project was initiated in 2018 and its first two phases engaged rural women through mobilization and training in producing areca nut leaf plates. The disposable dinnerware made out of areca nut sheaths has better dimensional stability besides being hygienic, biodegradable and microwave safe. The product thus manufactured addresses the growing concern of pollution caused by styrofoam and plastic dinnerware.

The project aimed to enhance the income of rural women through value addition to locally and abundantly available raw materials. Through areca nut leaf plate production and sales, 30 rural women entrepreneurs have been trained and hand-holded to establish their nano-enterprises. For most women, this is also their first opportunity to own a business and earn independent income in their bank accounts.

Additionally, a group of 350 women were trained on the raw material collection and hence boarded onto the value chain of arecanut leaf plate production in the region. Ensuring that rural women can come together, visualize a new economic opportunity and organize the production and marketing of the product. The project works on the belief that with enhanced incomes, independence and identity, women will not only prosper economically but also push their families and community to move forward. Technical and marketing support to the women entrepreneurs was provided by Tamul Plates Marketing Pvt. Ltd.

In 2021-2022 the project expanded to a multi-dimensional approach. The project worked to build sustainable systems for women entrepreneurs by setting up marketing linkages, group monitoring and support systems, etc. The financial systems were strengthened through monthly savings, low-interest loans to individual members, and planned investments by the SHGs. Various ecosystem partners in the region were engaged to build and strengthen gender-sensitive enabling systems.

What is Dhriiti: The Courage Within about?

Dhriiti: The Courage Within is a non-profit organization, working for the past 18 years to provide sustainable entrepreneurship solutions in different parts of India. Dhriiti enables entrepreneurship by facilitating an ecosystem that recognizes the need to nurture entrepreneurial practices and create systems to ensure they thrive. It aims to design financially, socially, and ecologically sustainable livelihoods for individuals and communities. Dhriiti works with women, youth, and communities and has reached out to more than 100,000 individuals so far.

Dhriiti operates with a comprehensive model with a core focus on developing and supporting women entrepreneurs across socio-economic and demographic groups. A model for women’s entrepreneurship has been developed by Dhriiti that focuses not only on building the competencies of women but also works on many critical enablers or ecosystems in a woman’s entrepreneurial journey. The Women Entrepreneurship model provides a framework that acknowledges and augments the roles of these enablers which includes the policymakers, various forms of media, entrepreneurship eco-system players, financial and tech agencies and most importantly Women Entrepreneur Networks or Communities.

What is InterGlobe Foundation about?

InterGlobe Foundation (IGF)  – www.interglobe.com/foundation  is the CSR arm of the InterGlobe Group of companies – a leader in Aviation, Hospitality and Travel related services. IGF is committed to building a society that is just, equitable, and inclusive and utilizes resources in a sustainable manner. It nurtures partnerships and supports initiatives in the areas of Heritage & Culture, Environment and Livelihood. The Heritage projects cover both the tangible and intangible aspects of heritage, including the Restoration of the Tomb of Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, located in Delhi and documentation and dissemination of lost dance forms depicted in the historical sculptural motifs of YakshisShalabhanjikas and Alasakanyas.

The environment projects are centred around afforestation initiatives and solid waste management interventions. The Community Forestry project in Kalahandi, Odisha looks at improving livelihood support for the tribal communities and sustaining the springs which supply water in different hamlets. No Open Waste (NOW) is a waste management intervention, creating a model for small peri-urban towns based on the experience of working in Kelwara, Rajasthan- housing the famous world heritage site- the Kumbalgarh fort. 

The livelihood projects support small enterprises of women with a strong focus on institution and capacity building. For instance, the Vaishali Socio-economic development project in Lalganj, Vaishali, Bihar is handholding 200 women to come out of poverty by supporting livelihood enhancement activities. 

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