A stream of colorfully clad women in sarees file into a small, dark room. Dusty, unused computer monitors line the crumbling concrete walls as Salt Lake Community College students eagerly await their counterparts.
Gracefully, the women take a seat and await instruction.
These women, from the rural village of Gulumb, are budding entrepreneurs looking for ways to expand and develop their proposed and existing businesses.
The wives of farmers and village merchants, they have the means to take their pre-existing skills and monetize them, something not everyone, let alone women in rural India, can do.
One woman, Minesha, has taught a tailoring class and spends her free time making traditional Indian garments. Another, Smita, was an art teacher who lost her job and found herself wanting to leverage her artistic ability to establish a pottery business.
One recurring theme for many of the women, however, comes to the foreground: literacy.
While their sons and daughters work as engineers, teachers, and businesspeople in major cities, a substantial number of these rural women cannot read or write, striking up a curious juxtaposition.
On one hand, these women have immense artistic talent and skill, with children who have ambitions beyond Gulumb. On the other, expansion of their businesses will be no small feat, considering bookkeeping, price-setting, and basic marketing require one to read.
Additionally, these women struggle with a lack of opportunity.
The wife of a tomato farmer, one woman sees limitations in expanding beyond Gulumb, given there are only four trucks owned by one business-owner. While the quality of produce her family’s farm generates may be competitive, a market of maybe 3,000 potential customers and an absence of adequate distribution poses a significant hurdle.
SLCC students listen to their grievances and pose some potential remedies to their economic woes, helpful or not. However, what sets these women apart from past generations of rural women in India is their ability to give credence to their own aspirations. Not only do they see an opportunity to improve the lives of themselves and the people around them, but they recognize that they are empowered and capable enough to at least pursue opportunities.
When people have faith in their own ideas, bringing them to fruition becomes exponentially more attainable.