Who we are
GEN is a UK based charity that works in India to alleviate poverty. We work in close partnership with an Indian grass-roots organisation, END POVERTY, which we helped establish in 2009 to work with those village groups which are most in need. Together we have educated and trained rural women in the Tijara Block of Alwar District, Rajasthan. The community is mainly engaged in agriculture and dairying with 40% living below the poverty line and needing education, skills and income support.
We started with literacy and craftwork followed by self-help microfinance groups where teams of ten women can save together, support and lend to each other while building their credit-worthiness as a group to access funds from microenterprise banks and charities.
Our New Women’s Empowerment Project
Many of the women who we have supported are now ready to start their own small businesses and the project will help them achieve that.
Villagers have limited access to a range of goods and services required for rural livelihoods, including fertilizer, livestock, mechanical equipment, improved seed varieties, as well as clothes-making and other goods and services for women.
This gap can be turned into an opportunity for women who can be trained as entrepreneurs.
The training will begin with a programme focussed on digital, mainly smartphone, technology and will build on our existing women’s programmes. Then we will help women plan a micro business, and provide support and access to finance.
We now plan to recruit 40-50 women over the next two years so each of them can initiate and run a new small-scale village-based business.
Lockdown and coronavirus has made our work more difficult, but shifting to training using mobile phone technology promises a more sustainable solution to poverty for these women, now and beyond the pandemic.
Shri Shyam, a model for others?
Ten women in the village of Shekhpur committed to saving Rs. 100 each (roughly £1) per month.
This is Mamta, who set up the Shri Shyam savings group and is its Secretary. She learnt to sew with her local craft group, where she began training in 2015.
During lockdown the women learnt how to make masks and earned a modest income while many men had lost jobs and were sitting at home.
The group successfully raised an interest-free group loan of Rs.10,0000 from the bank in early 2020 and despite the hardships of 2020 re-paid the loan. This year the bank has already sanctioned a loan of Rs.20,0000 to the group, which will be shared equally between them. They will buy a cow, two buffaloes, a lathe and wood, and open a beauty parlour.
We believe the women of Shri Shyam are ready for their journey in entrepreneurship with support and mentoring from our Indian partners. Group members regularly attend training sessions and are in the process of scoping their business ideas.
Asha, from Nakhnol village
Asha is highly aspirational and talented. Asha was a teacher on our one-year education programme for unschooled girls before joining a savings group. She bought a buffalo with a loan from the group and earned income from selling its milk. A few years later Asha sold the milking buffalo but kept her calf and bought another calf for herself. She now plans to start her own small dairy of 4 buffaloes and is keen to raise a bank loan to fund her dairy.
Women like these are ready to earn income and thus gain respect and agency within their communities. We believe digital technology, which is now spreading into the rural areas where we operate, can be the catalyst enabling them to make a small, but to them vital, independent income.