Nagaland does not have the Street Vendors Act, 2014, in place; simply put, there is no guarantee for protection and support of the marginalised women vendors Credit: EastMojo image

Kohima: The youth of Nagaland, a state struggling with the menace of home-grown insurgency, have been finding it difficult to earn a respectable livelihood, with some reports suggesting that more than 70,000 youths are registered educated unemployed in Nagaland.

It is in this context that Niechute Dulo, an economist from Nagaland, took up the responsibility of encouraging the Naga youth, particularly women street vendors, to become self-sufficient and set up their own businesses. The result was Entrepreneurs Associates (EA), a social enterprise which the 44-year-old Dulo set up in 2000 to train people on entrepreneurship and help them initiate their micro-finances by raising capital through crowd-funding.

Considering the dearth of financial institutions and industries in Nagaland willing to provide young Nagas with loans, given the history of insurgency in the state, Dulo decided to fill that void.

Currently, Entrepreneurs Associates is working with a significant number of tribal women street vendors, who are among the worst affected lot in the state. Things get worse for them considering the fact that the Street Vendors Act, 2014 is not in place in Nagaland; the Act is meant for protecting and supporting these marginalised women. The organisation provides the tribal women with loans and organises them into self-help groups so that they can run their families.

Speaking to EastMojo, Dulo said, “Since a majority of women vendors are single mothers, divorcees, wives of alcoholics or abusers of substances, they live under very challenging conditions. Our idea is to train, equip and empower these women vendors because they continue to remain street vendors, and never get the opportunity to climb up the economic and social ladder.”

The cooperative organisation has also been recognised as a non-banking financial company (NBFC) by the Reserve Bank of India for its micro-finance as well as small and medium enterprises (SME) finances.

The organisation provides loan to individuals seeking financial support at an interest rate of 16%. It is currently supporting over 7,000 unemployed youth for self-employment and entrepreneurship and reaching out to around 20,000 families and about a 1,000 farmers. It has successfully helped several first-generation entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses, who are in turn generating employment opportunities to the other job-seeking population.

An entrepreneurship-promoting model, the organisation is also expanding its reach rapidly in the neighbouring state of Manipur as well. Over the years, they have been instrumental in channelising over Rs 150 crore of loans with 100% recovery to banks.

Dulo has been recently has been recognised for his contributions towards social entrepreneurship by the Schwab Foundation, a sister organisation of the World Economic Forum.

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