Reena Devi, 32 years old, is a vibrant woman who is eager to tell her life story to the Women on Wings team that visited her hometown Nagri, while working for the women entrepreneurship program with the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS). Reena did not have any worries about life as a child. She lived with parents who earned and provided the necessities for her living. The day she got married, when she was 17, she was happy but at the same time stressed to be leaving her own family. She was unsure of the future – what would be her role in the new family with responsibilities, now on her. And she did get a lot of new responsibilities: taking care of the family members, her two children, their studies, their health, doing farming activities, cooking, and cleaning.
Reena has had no proper education; she can only write her name and sign if required. Thanks to the livelihood development program of JSLPS, Reena’s life changed for the better. She became part of a Self Help Group (SHG) first and then a Producer Group. She had taken small loans for bettering the varieties of crops to earn adequate income to sustain her family. However, this was still not enough when she had two kids with a growing need for a good education. Earlier she had a diesel operated traditional flour mill which was not operational anymore. She thought she should invest the minimal savings she has to revive it to sell processed flour locally for earning an additional income. She then came to know about loans under women entrepreneurship programs supported by JSLPS for Palash flour production units. She decided to set up an electricity operated flour mill at her village. Reena produces naturally farmed flour and milled rice where most of her flour products are marketed through Palash, the brand of JSLPS.
What a difference an income makes
She mentions there is a feeling of happiness that makes her feel content for all the efforts she has put to prosper as today: “Previously I had to make choices. For food I had to stick to produce which was either farmed by my family or available in the market at cheaper prices. Now, I can choose from a variety of good quality, nutritive and tasty foods. We were not able to afford the doctor’s fees and medicines. I used to worry about higher expenses, therefore bought moderate quality and cheap clothing items, but now I can buy good quality items. My children were schooled in government schools earlier, but since my better income I have been able to enroll them into private schools as they have better education and exposure. If the kids lag behind in some subjects and require some more tutoring, I can send them for extra classes as well.”
Reena can now provide for herself and has also become a provider for her family. She is more aware of the world, more comfortable in making her own choices. She is always looking out for ways to improve her unit and involve more women for supply of raw materials to give them a stable market. She works alongside her mother-in-law, Kalavati Devi, 60, who is glad that her daughter-in-law has this work, she can be an independent person and provide for her family in a sustainable manner. Kalavati goes on her behalf to meetings on days when Reena is caught up with work at the mill, supports her in her decisions, and helps her achieve an empowered outlook of life. Reena has planned to establish a new bigger wheat flour unit under Palash, and as she is the experienced person in this profession, the unit is going to be led by her. More women from the village are going to be trained, employed and more women farmers will be supplying raw materials to the unit. This will help give them to obtain an additional and a more certain source of livelihood. Reena: “I wish to help these women achieve what I have achieved and become independent financially, mentally and gain a recognition as empowered women.”
Partnership Women on Wings and JSLPS
Early 2022, Women on Wings and JSLPS agreed to collaborate on a program which aims at creating livelihood opportunities for rural women in Jharkhand by developing an implementable plan to co-create a sustainable brand, Palash. Palash will become the umbrella brand of various products which are handmade by rural women in the state of Jharkhand. The partnership is in full swing; since March 2022 many interactive workshops in various topics have taken place with the JSLPS team in Ranchi which contribute to realizing their joint goal.
Image by Women on Wings | Reena Devi at her new flour mill