The striving entrepreneurial spirit of Reena

The Women on Wings team spoke with Reena Devi, 32, a vibrant flour mill operator, while visiting the village of Nagri, for the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society’s (JSLPS) women entrepreneurship program. Reena shared her life story. As a child, she had no worries, her parents provided all her necessities.

She was a 17-year-old bride who was happy on her wedding day yet stressed about leaving her own family, and unsure of the future or her role with in-laws. She took on many responsibilities: care of extended family members, her two children, their studies and health, farming, cooking, and cleaning.

Life changes
Reena does not have a formal education; she can only write and sign her name if required. Yet, her options changed for the better thanks to the livelihood development program of JSLPS.

She had become part of a Self Help Group (SHG) of women who saved together to buy better seeds. To support her family with an adequate income, she had taken small loans from the SHG for better crop varieties. But with two kids’ growing needs for a decent education, it was not enough.

Then she joined an official farmers’ Producer Group. She had a diesel flour mill which was out of operation. She considered investing her meager savings to revive her broken down diesel flour mill. Then she learned about women entrepreneurship program loans for Palash electric flour production units supported by JSLPS.

Now Reena produces naturally farmed flour and milled rice products. She markets her goods through JSLPS’s Palash brand.

What a difference an income makes
“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 doctor’s fees and medicines. I used to worry about higher expenses, and therefore bought moderate quality and cheap clothing items. But now I can buy quality items,” Reena shares.

“Since earning a better income, I have been able to enroll my children in private schools where they have better education and exposure. If the kids lag in subjects and require more tutoring, I can send them for extra classes.”

Female power
Reena now provides for herself and her family. She is more aware of the world, more comfortable in making her own choices. She constantly looks for ways to improve her unit and involve more female suppliers of raw materials, to give them a stable market.

She plans to establish a new bigger Palash wheat flour unit and with her experience, she will lead the unit. More local women shall be trained and employed plus female farmers will supply raw materials to the unit. Her efforts will support additional and more certain sources of livelihoods.

Reena works alongside her mother-in-law, Kalavati Devi, 60, who is glad that her daughter-in-law has this work, can be independent and sustainably provide for her family. Kalavati goes on Reena’s behalf to village meetings on days she is at the mill, supports her decisions, and helps her achieve an empowered outlook of life.

Reena: “I wish to help women achieve what I have and become independent financially, mentally and gain recognition as empowered women.”

Women on Wings and JSLPS partnership
In early 2022, Women on Wings and JSLPS agreed to collaborate on a program that aims to create livelihood opportunities for rural women in the state of Jharkhand by developing an implementable plan to co-create a sustainable brand, Palash.

Palash will become the umbrella brand of various products handmade by women in rural areas of Jharkhand. The partnership is in full swing; since March 2022 we’ve run interactive workshops on diverse topics with the JSLPS team in Ranchi which contributes to realizing their joint goal.

Image by Women on Wings | Reena Devi at her new flour mill