By Pratik Ranjan
In the rural villages of Peterbar Block in Jharkhand, India, a significant problem persists due to limited availability of essential household products and fewer economic opportunities for rural women resulting in households being unable to obtain good quality products. To address these issues, Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), launched the PARAS (Peterbar Aadhunik Rojgar Adarsh Sangha) initiative in October 2021 which aims to empower rural women entrepreneurs by enabling them to develop a wide range of essential off-farm products and market them within the communities of Peterbar Block through Sales Women, locally known as “Didis.” The main objective was to create a sustainable platform that not only provides income-generating opportunities for women but also improves access to essential products within the rural areas. This article explores the journey of PARAS, from its inception to its impact on the lives of rural women entrepreneurs, and the challenges faced in scaling up the initiative.
The initiative began with a well-defined structure, starting from the PARAS Board of Directors, which oversees decision-making and strategy. The board is responsible for incorporating new products, setting prices, and ensuring the overall success of the initiative. The rural women entrepreneurs play a pivotal role in developing various off-farm products, utilizing locally available resources and promoting sustainable practices. These women are trained and supported by PRADAN to enhance their skills and create high-quality products. Last but not the least to bridge the gap between the entrepreneurs and the target population, Sales Didis play a crucial role. These local women, who reside in the same villages they serve, act as sales representatives and promote the PARAS products within their communities.
Apart from training and capacity building support for rural women entrepreneurs and Sales Didis, various other interventions were carried out last year such as opening of outlets at block and village level for selling the rural products. The entire selling and marketing process is tracked by the PARAS Manager. Some work is in progress which includes promoting digital transactions through platforms like UPI, Google Pay, or Phonepe, thereby helping in tracking of the money flow and facilitating the ease in auditing process.
Impact of the intervention
PARAS has successfully established a consumer base of 2,400 households within just one year of its formation. Around 32 women entrepreneurs are currently earning their livelihoods from production, value addition, processing and marketing of different products. Out of 32, more than 30 production units are having an annual income of more than Rs. 20,000. The annual turnover of the production units are reflected below.
The initiative not only provides employment opportunities for rural women but also supports local farmers and businesses by utilizing locally sourced materials.
PARAS has emerged as a powerful example of how local resources and the entrepreneurial spirit of rural women can be harnessed to create a positive change in the Peterbar Block of Jharkhand. By empowering rural women entrepreneurs and providing them with a platform to showcase their skills, PARAS has not only generated income for them and their families but this initiative’s impact extends beyond the individual entrepreneurs, benefiting the entire community through improved access to essential products and support for the local economy.
While the PARAS initiative has made significant progress within its first year, the challenge lies in scaling up and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the model. Addressing logistical hurdles, maintaining market demand, and achieving financial viability are critical factors that need to be addressed for the continued success of the initiative.