Kashmiri women of India are pushing back against cultural taboos and raising funds to take up entrepreneurship in their country.
Business ownership among women increased by 10 percent between 2014 and 2016 globally. Mobile apps, crochet art, shawl-making, embroidery work, and locally manufactured engineering projects are just a few of the many businesses women in India have started as a way to own their financial independence and diversify their career paths.
“It is great to have an idea, but it is the execution that matters,” said Sabina Chopra, founder of the online travel portal Yatra. “Have a vision, find out whether it is feasible and work towards it. Success is bound to come your way.”
The Indian states with the majority of small and medium-sized businesses are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, according to a report by Sheatwork. The states where the primary financial aid for business loans goes to are Jammu, Kashmir, Karnataka, and Rajasthan, though almost 80 percent of women entrepreneurs decide to self-finance instead of relying on government loans.
According to Global Press Journal, the primary jobs of working women are mainly in the medical and education fields; however, an increasing number of Kashmiri women are beginning to finance their own companies in other fields. Syed Sarwar Kashani, the communication officer of the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute, says that women taking charge in business ownership is a major sign of the social change taking place in Kashmir Valley.
“Medicine and teaching are the most preferred jobs for women in Kashmir, but slowly the trend is changing and women are moving out of these two professions,” Kashani said. “Business is more profitable than these jobs, and women want to be independent now.”
Business management in India has traditionally been a man’s area of expertise, but as more and more women take the helm in their respective industries, it’s not a surprise to see more empowered women. Yet despite such worldwide empowerment, the road to management is a tricky one when dealing with cultural taboos and traditions. Only 700 out of the 6,500 students who trained in entrepreneurship at the Institute since 2004 have been women.
“Business has always been a man’s job and if a girl joins it, the journey for her is going to be difficult,” said Showkat Ahmad, who sells handcrafted shawls and suits in Srinagar. “Besides, our society is not to open to accept women working as shopkeepers; many people laugh at them.”
So how do women in India combat social norms? They focus on education, on careers that provide them with the opportunity to be in charge, and on championing for and protecting civil liberties, as well as providing training and mentoring programs to assist the women’s empowerment movement.
“My brother was put in a co-ed school while I was put in a convent school. My brother did engineering but I was put in hotel management,” said Arpita Ganesh, founder and CEO the lingerie brand Buttercups. “We all do a lot of mentorship for young people because we believe we didn’t have that when we needed it.”
Women in India and around the world are becoming business owners and entrepreneurs, allowing more women to enter the workplace and move toward gender equality.
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