Solapur based Udyogvardhini’s Chandrika Chauhan grooms 400 women entrepreneurs; makes around 15,000 women self-reliant Trapped in troubles from all sides Smt Chandrika Chauhan had decided to migrate from Solapur with her family in 1993, as she did not have meals to feed her family and all sources of income had dried. At a fine morning she cleaned her old sewing machine and took up tailoring work from neighbours. That activity has now turned into a big movement joined by thousands of women in and around Solapur city. Not only saving the families of around 1,000 women who were at the verge of disintegration, through counselling and also rehabilitating even the unwed mothers, Smt Chauhan has also made many visually challenged girls self-reliant. Chitrakoot Shilpi Nanaji Deshmukh is her inspiration, who in 1997 turned down her request to join the Samaj Shilpi Yojna and directed her to start women empowerment work in Solapur. The name Udyogvardhini was also given by Nanaji. Since then she did not look back and is moving forward setting new milestones in women empowerment. Affectionately called ‘Bhabhi’ among the women of her group, she always avoid acting as a leader, rather joins all the activities whether kitchen, counselling, tailoring or other activities as a ground worker. When asked how she started the work she says: “Though I had started the work in 1996, I started expanding the work in different localities in 1997. Since I have also worked as a corporator in Solapur Municipal Corporation for some time I was aware of the problems of women. Later I dedicated myself to Udyogvardhini connecting women in distress with any of the activity of Udyogvardhini.” Today Udyogvardhini mainly runs three kinds of activities—catering, counselling and old age home. It is firm not to start its own industry on large scale, rather develops individual entrepreneurs. Undoubtedly women, both in rural and urban areas, do not get sufficient money for investment, because even the family members do not trust them for investment. That is why Smt Chauhan suggests minimum Rs 500 and maximum Rs 10,000 investment by women for starting any activity. Majority of the women who are now doing good business had started their activity with this meager investment only. The activities started for self-reliance include Beauty Parlour, Bhaakri Making, Book Binding, Catering Service, Fire Wood Seller, House Maid Placement, Small Grocery Shop, Tailoring Shop, Vegetable Seller, Groundnut Chatni Making, Manufacturing Units, FMCG Products, Gift Items, Handicrafts, etc. Apart from it the training is imparted for chalk making, cookery class, incense sticks making, hand paper making, hand work on dress materials, rangoli workshop, adult literacy programme, self-help group orientation, two-wheeler driving, etc. “Majority of the women visiting us come with some or the other trouble. In that condition telling them to first get training and arrange money for investment is impractical. The hunger cannot be satisfied with speeches. First we discuss with them their real family condition. I personally talk to each and every individual at least for an hour to understand their condition—what she knows and what she can do. If she can contribute in catering, she is connected to that work at any of the three places. We everyday prepare the meals for at least 2,000 people. Those who know tailoring work are told to prepare any such item. They are paid even for this evaluation work,” Smt Chauhan points out. The old age home has proved to be a boon for the destitute women. The interesting experiment done by Udyogvardhini is for empowerment of visually challenged girls. The government provides them some help till the age of 18. But the girls, who do not have families, face many hardships at that age. Such girls are accommodated in the old age home. This has been named as Mangal Drishti Bhavan—‘Mangal’ is for old age people and ‘Drishti’ for blind girls. All girls are first taught to carry out the house hold work including preparing meals, cleaning floors, cleaning utensils, etc. Their lodging and boarding is free and they normally earn about Rs 3,000 per month. Eight of such girls have now been married off. Even now they come from their houses for work. The women who can work independently are allowed to work with Udyogvardhini only for two years and then they are motivated to start their own work thus making them ‘owner’ and not the ‘worker’. They are fully trained in all activities like taking raw material, preparing items, marketing, billing, taking orders, supplying material and even filing tax returns. Udyogvardhini enjoys taking up new challenges. Lok Mangal Group which owns a chain of retail outlets and Malls in Solapur organises mass weddings in the city every year. “We provide them at least one lakh chapattis on every occasion. Like vegetables, chapattis cannot be prepared in advance. But we have the manpower to provide the chapattis in the shortest duration. We have the record of preparing one lakh chapattis in 22 hours. We are doing it since 2009,” Smt Chauhan says. Udyogvardhini has emerged as a hope for the women in distress. Its team is efficient enough to extend all possible help required by an individual. It boosted the confidence level of the average women to the extent that they now export their products to developed countries like the USA and UK.