Salema's garment business and her solar lanterns sustain her family financially | Milaap

Salema's garment business and her solar lanterns sustain her family financially

For the day’s field visit, I planned to meet with Salema Sekh and a few other women who comprise a self-help group associated with DCBS, Milaap’s partner that works in southern West Bengal, empowering women to utilize their skills to generate income for their families. According to various statistical reports on the socio-economic welfare of women in West Bengal, the very low workforce participation rate of women in West Bengal is inaccurate, because most of the household income-generating activities of women of rural West Bengal is under-reported. It is estimated that 95 per cent of rural women in West Bengal, who are not acknowledged as workers, are actually involved in resource generating activities that help sustain their families.
 
Thanks to the opportunity Milaap gave me to meet with these women of rural West Bengal, I have been able to witness first-hand the various types of income generating activities that these women participate in. I have also been able to see how important such activities are to sustaining their families. Often, we think that some of the work these women do at home are ancillary activities that only supplement the income generated by the males in the household. Yet, the more women I speak to, the more I hear about how their "ancillary" activity has become to primary income-generating work. Most of the husbands now-a-days support the work their wives are doing and also participate full-time.
 
For example, I met with Salema Sekh that day, who, along with her husband owns a garment shop that caters to the local community. Initially, her husband had a separate small-scale construction business, while Salema did embroidery work on the side. During the economic downturn around 2008, Salema's husband's business went under, and they went through a difficult period where her husband could not find any gainful employment. They were then introduced to DCBS through neighbors, and received a loan to start a business that would expand on Salema's tailoring and embroidery background, by also selling ready-made garments.
 
Their store is now very popular in the local area, and after the group meeting I was able to visit the store. Within about 5 minutes of me being there, there were about 10 women at the store checking out the latest wares. I was really impressed by the success of their business and admired the respect and enthusiasm Salema's husband had for her and the business they now run together.
 
Through their success, they were able to purchase a few solar lanterns for their business and plan on renovating their space soon. The lanterns ensured that their business didn’t have to shut down during power cuts. The lanterns also help Salema continue her tailoring and embroidery work in the hours past sunset. They wanted to thank DCBS and Milaap for helping their aspirations come true.


Salema and her husband at their garment store