Wave of new-age enterprising women in Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar, Jul 5 (IANS): Women are at the forefront of all entrepreneurial initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory. Lakhs of women across the UT are utilising the Centre's schemes meant to encourage self-sufficiency through interest-free loans, subsidised raw materials, free skill coaching programs, and other monetary and vocational training benefits.

The Lt Governor e-inaugurated and laid the foundation stone for New District Rural Haats spread across the UT and dedicated the facility to women entrepreneurs.

Up until three years ago, women participating in upliftment of rural economy was unheard of. But today, the result of this entrepreneurship movement shows their focused pursuit of excellence.

It is these women in far-flung areas who keep the socio-economic progress of J&K going. Their contributions to the government's efforts to reduce disparities and inequalities are commendable. The LG highlighted the importance of women's potential as leaders and change-makers in society.

Government initiatives like SAATH, HAUSLA, UMEED, and TEJASWINI have created a culture, almost a need for the financial independence of rural women. Usually, people in remote and rural areas are agriculture dependent; their employment is seasonal and that gives them a lot of idle time. Right direction and collaborative efforts between men and women can lead to constructive employment in other sectors of the economy resulting in optimum use of manpower and a dignified way of earning bread for the rural population.

The Centre is aiding the women with the necessary technical know-how and marketing tools for their small businesses. Many women who started from their homes today have opened up hands-on learning centres.

Some Self-Help Groups have created a niche for their products and are fiercely fighting on online platforms like Amazon India for a spot. Some products like the well-known Kashmiri carpets are competing for global recognition in international markets.

Last week Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha attended an event for Women Entrepreneurs organised by J&K Rural Livelihood Mission at Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre in Srinagar.

At the beginning of the year, Kashmir exported handicrafts (including carpets) worth millions to Germany.

Kashmir handicrafts and handlooms are a focal point in Jammu and Kashmir's Trade and Export Policy (2018-2028), which envisages it to grow almost five times in the next five years. The policy provides an e-commerce platform for artisans to foster the growth of the handicrafts sector. In line with the policy, the LG hopes to attract as many women to the handicrafts sector since it requires a small industrial setup -- feasible for women who wish to earn in the comfort of their homes.

One recent example is a resident of Ashmuji village in Kulgam district of South Kashmir, Ruby Jan. Under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) she acquired a loan to start a bakery shop. She and her brother are earning about Rs 25,000 monthly. Seeing the success of their humble shop, more than 200 women have followed suit registering themselves with NRLM. This is the women empowerment that JKUT is aiming for.

Today 5 lakh women are a part of 56,000 Self-Help-Groups in the UT. In 2022 assistance and support will be extended to an additional 1.5 lakh women entrepreneurs.

This Independence Day, 75 progressive women entrepreneurs from Rural Livelihood Mission Self Help Groups will be honoured for their contribution to women empowerment.

At the event the Lt Governor unveiled the Product Catalog of Self-Help Groups and JKRLM's gift hamper. He also distributed Micro ATMs and felicitated the outperforming Sakhies. Inspecting the live stalls, the LG declared to procure the SHGs products for use in the government departments and popularise them further.

Rural Livelihood Mission is heavily focusing on the branding and packaging aspect of these goods. Packaging is the first introduction of a product to a prospecting customer. A district-wise packaging unit is being set up to assist the SHGs with this. Besides this, 2,600 individual enterprises will kickstart under the Start-Up Village Enterprise Program. A micro food processing campaign is another initiative in talks for women entrepreneurs.

Public welfare reforms introduced by the government in the last two years are finally paying dividends and the people on the final ladder of development are receiving the benefits. JKUT is witnessing an impressive turnaround in various industrial sectors improving the quality of life. Engagement of all in the economic progress will uplift all sections of the social hierarchy. As the youth is involving themselves with contributing to the economy, their attention towards violence and terrorism imported to Kashmir by parties with a vested interest is slowly evaporating. An idle mind is the devil's workshop; while a goal-oriented mind can move mountains. And this is the progress Jammu and Kashmir has been aiming for.



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