NAVYA: Building a self-sustaining ecosystem for Rural women

by Team Conscious Carma

An initiative by Apollo Tyres Foundation, Women’s Day Special“The beauty of empowering others is that your own power is not diminished in the process”- Barbara Colorose 

A woman, if provided with the opportunity to learn and grow, is a change agent of the society. Education and income-generation opportunities are essential fundamentals to achieve economic independence and establish one’s identity in the society. So much so, that these fundamentals are now legal rights etched within the overall ambit of Human Rights. However, there still lies a gap between granting rights and monitoring their rightful implementation. Much of our rural India still limits women to the four walls of their homes. The occupational segregation is so much prevalent due to the age-old patriarchal norms, women even if educated are discouraged to work.  

The falling rate of engagement of women in labour force participation in India is quite alarming, and this decline is greater in rural workforce than the urban workforce. According to International Labour Organisation, the labour force participation in India fell from 35.8 percent in 1994 to 20.7 percent in 2019. This was further deteriorated during COVID times. India is ranked 11th from the bottom among 131 countries, in its comparative index of female workforce participation.  

Agriculture is the major income source of rural India, with 71% of female workers employed in the sector. But these field are distant from the concept of “level playing fields” for women. Apart from handful work opportunities, the poorest of the community in rural India, works as daily wage labourers. Here women may be given work but are paid less compared to their male counterparts and go through extreme levels of harassment, on routine basis.  

“We at, Apollo Tyres Foundation (ATF), believe in leading a change to drive and increase women participation by building a self-sustaining ecosystem for all. Amongst ATF’s multitude of programmes, Navya is a flagship programme for rural women of India. The beneficiaries of the programme are women from disadvantaged communities or economically weak families of rural India. Programme Navya assisted these women in forming self-help groups, livelihood training and income generation, along with government linkages and access to markets. The Programme has directly outreached to over 15,000 women through livelihood initiatives, and as an extension to the initiatives we have linked over 24,000 women beneficiaries with the Government schemes”, says  Rinika Grover, Head Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, Apollo Tyres Ltd.

Today, these beneficiaries are earning and supporting their families. Many of them have established their livelihood unit and are now providing income opportunities and trainings to other women. Some of them are also engaged in philanthropy.  

Our beneficiaries have not just limited their journey to their self-growth but are helping as many as possible. That thought is the torch bearer of the concept of our campaign, EkNaam, which marks its 5th edition this year. There are numerous success stories of Programme Navya and of other external organisations who are contributing to livelihood enhancement projects. The annual campaign is to honour our beneficiaries who are trailblazers and are now playing an influential role in society.  

“For the year 2023, aligning with International Women’s Day theme #EmbraceEquity, our EkNaam campaign identifies and felicitates 8 women who have worked as change agents in women empowerment and gender equality”, adds Grover.

Amongst our numerous beneficiaries, we have picked a handful of inspirational stories.  

Asha Karunakaran from Tamil Nadu
 BEFORE - Asha came from a family of four and her husband was the only earning member of the family. His income was inconsistent as he was a daily wage labourer and their life entailed challenges for everyday needs. They could not enroll their daughters to school as well.  
HER JOURNEY - Asha aspired to be financially stable and support her family during the adversities. She learnt about ‘Clean My Village (CMV)’ project of ATF and enrolled herself for training in solid waste management. Thereafter, she was selected as a member of Nirmala Brigade (cleaning staff) under CMV. Subsequently, she tapped the potential of transforming waste flowers to wealth (Potpourri). Her innovation brought strides of sustainability in solid waste management, and she became the key responsible person of the project leading a team.
AFTER - To this date, she has conducted 25+ awareness sessions on solid waste management, advocating over 1,500 people. Today, she earns a monthly income of INR12,000 and is financially supporting her household.  To this date, she has conducted 25+ awareness sessions on solid waste management, advocating over 1,500 people. Today, she earns a monthly income of INR12,000 and is financially supporting her household.  

“My initiative to valorise waste dedicates my determination to make economic opportunity out of waste. Today, I am paving path of sustainable development for my community”

Asha Karunakaran
Ramilaben Parmar from Gujarat

BEFORE - Ramilaben’s family of three was economically weak. Her husband, who was then a daily wage labourer, earned less than INR100/day. With this minuscule income, their situation was hand to mouth throughout the year. Her husband was an alcohol addict and physically abused Ramilaben every now and then.  
HER JOURNEY - Ramilaben took it upon herself to uplift her family from extreme poverty and educate her daughter, so that at least her daughter could live a life with dignity. She enrolled in ATF’s organic farming programme and learnt the Systematic Rice
AFTER - Today, her monthly income accounts up to INR25,000 and she is educating her daughter with her income. Her daughter has completed her schooling and is enrolled in a vocational course.  

“My firm belief that times will change, if you work for it- paid off. Today I am the secretary of Waghodia Women Credit Co-operative Society and the nucleus of financially secure and happy family!” 

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