Kakuli enjoys independent living due to her job at ONganic Foods

The freedom to live her own life and build her son’s new one, is what Kakuli is doing now.

Kakuli (pictured above in the middle) pursued paid work after living with unsupportive in-laws and her husband left. While things were not stable for a while as she sorted out her life, she’s now happily experiencing independence and lives with and supports her son and mother.

She provides for her family through her work at ONganic Foods, a Women on Wings social enterprise partner in West Bengal. Kakuli says that this freedom and her job, her first paid one, have enabled her to become a more confident person. She’s in control of her decisions now.

Kakuli works at ONganic Foods’ processing plant in Nadia. She has lived in a nearby town for 17 years and like many women of a certain age living in rural India, she married at 18. She didn’t know her husband before marriage and was trembling on her wedding day. Obviously, not an easy time. She said her life changed drastically after marriage as she had many unpaid responsibilities.

A friend shared with her about the opportunity for the job. It was ideal since it was close to her house. So, she applied. Today she loves that she gets to meet other colleagues and talk with them.  You can see how proud she is to control her own earnings and be the sole breadwinner.  

Creating her dreams today

Kakuli says she didn’t dream when she was younger about what she might do when she grew up. Her dreams were possibly stunted due to being put in the position of knowing she would marry so early and to someone she’d never met.

What makes Kakuli happy now is that she enjoys chatting with others and travelling outside of her village. Also, her son is studying in his second year of his Bachelor of Arts. He has aims because of his mother’s support. She and her son both dream that he will obtain a government job in Kolkata and lead a more secure life than the one she has had. Kakuli also dreams of travel sometime in the future when she finds the time just for herself.

ONganic Foods is scaling to employ more rural Indian women

Women on Wings business consultant Disha Rathour and supply chain management and logistics expert Hilke Tol drove about three and a half hours from Kolkata to ONganic Foods’ processing plant in Nadia recently. There they met with its quality assurance and operations manager to understand and brainstorm optimizations for its supply chain and operation logistics and with the team see if there ways to further improve employee efficiency and safety. The plant processes indigenous organic produce such as black rice, Govindbhog, turmeric and ginger grown by a network of 5,000 smallholder farmers that gets shipped throughout India and exported to Germany and the UK.

While at the plant, the Women on Wings team had the opportunity to meet and speak with Kakuli as she worked. Her assignment that day was hand sorting rice to ensure there were no husks in the finished product.  She graciously shared about her life and job and beamed as she spoke. She feels grateful that ONganic Foods’ founder Ekta Jaju takes care of her employees, and that Ekta’s SwitchOn Foundation that works on clean energy access, sustainable agriculture, skilling, education, and well-being also plays an important role in her life.

Image at the top – Kakuli in the center with with Women on Wings business consultant Disha Rathour and ONganic Foods food safety and certification executive Indira Jana who was translating.