J&K’s promising women entrepreneurs set high benchmarks

Jammu and Kashmir is on a mission to create an encouraging and conducive environment for promoting a culture of female entrepreneurship. Today, thousands of women have taken the baton and are pioneering business projects across the Union Territory (UT) in many spheres.

The biggest reason for their growing confidence is the encouraging push and the financial assistance that the UT government is providing so that they can fall back without fear.

The UT administration has rolled out several schemes and incentives to allow enterprising women to expand their horizons and help in rebuilding the brand ‘Jammu and Kashmir’.

Some schemes have shown incredibly successful tangible, immediate returns! The biggest of all, the UMEED scheme (JK Rural Livelihood Mission) is turning a new chapter in the lives of rural women.

It aims to reduce poverty in the UT at the grassroots level by involving people to assist in local produce and easily available resources that can translate into gainful employment. JKRLM is the change-maker in the UT with 60,000 Self-Help Groups (SHGs) employing 5,02,641 women beneficiaries.

So far, Rs 890.55 crore bank credit has been availed by SHGs promoted by UMEED JKRLM, and Rs 273.88 crore capitalisation has been availed by SHGs from JKRLM. It is noteworthy how these SHGs have mobilised Rs 168.88 crore from their own savings.

To maintain a minimum representation of women in UT’s youth programs and missions, the government is heavily pushing women to join by offering them benefits. The Mission Youth Program has more than 8,000 women members.

At the Panchayat level, 6,000 women have been awarded assistance to become entrepreneurs across districts.

With mere 30-day entrepreneurship training with JKRLM UMEED at the Block Training Centre, women are earning livelihood by making jams, pickles, sauces, chutneys, and concentrates. The additionally motivated women have been helped by the Mission in setting up processing and preservation units at their households.

Subsidised rates of raw materials, interest-free loans, and free marketing of their products by government agencies have ignited a spark and given rural women a larger purpose in life.

Fairs and exhibitions across Jammu and Kashmir, and India’s metropolitans have given them a larger-than-life platform to showcase their skill set. Under UMEED, 40 products made by the SHGs have been made available on e-commerce websites including Amazon, Flipkart, and Meesho.

Two women entrepreneurs of SAATH scheme (Rural Enterprises Acceleration Program) — Kiran from Reasi and Ghazala from Kupwara were recently awarded the honor of ‘Emerging Entrepreneur’ by the Ministry of MSME for their outstanding achievements.

Special scholarship schemes like Pragati and Saksham Scheme are being granted to outstanding female scholars. Kashmir University produced 94 gold medalists in 2021, of which 66 were girls. Islamic University of Science and Technology also showed a similar trend.

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said that to uplift a society its women must to empowered, therefore all efforts have to be made in the direction of skill training and re-skilling women.

In Jammu, women entrepreneurs have also joined the bandwagon with the UMEED scheme fuelled by training and soft loans.

JKRLM is not just a scheme but a sentiment with almost 5 lakh women under its wing operating in some capacity to become economically independent. It aims to recover 66 per cent of the rural population out of poverty.

For a unanimous approach to achieving the goal of JKRLM, the government is promoting ‘one district one product’ and institutional credit to women, especially for priority sectors like Horticulture and Handicrafts.

For far-flung areas, handicraft skills are being imparted to women through centrally sponsored schemes. Crafts of embroidery, crewel, tailoring and stitching, are being taught through the government’s special skill development programs.

Handloom centres have done exceptionally well in the Pulwama district resulting in employment opportunities for women. These centres not only teach but provide a regular stipend to the women and girls so that after one or two years of craft training, every woman can set up and run a unit at her own house.

Artisans and weavers are heavily supported through Mudra Scheme for financial assistance, Artisan Credit Card Scheme, etc. Pulwama presently has 20 handicraft centres and 4 handloom training centres, offering courses with a duration of one to two years. South Kashmir’s geography is fast changing with these initiatives, with a focus on financial well-being over terror activities.

Women are also being encouraged to pursue sports as hobbies and creative outlets, and for health and well-being. Last week the LG met the members of Jammu and Kashmir’s first women’s cycling club — Women Do Ride — at the Raj Bhavan in Jammu.

He appreciated the efforts of the club in breaking the stereotype that J&K is an unsafe place, and rather shifting the focus towards the development and equal opportunity for all in the UT.

The government is making proactive interventions to create facilities to encourage women’s participation in governance, business, and other sectors, along with creating a gender-inclusive ecosystem for women’s omnipresent representation and empowerment.

While speaking to the citizens on the Awaam Ki Awaaz show aired on all local radio stations, the LG guaranteed the smart cities of Jammu and Srinagar dedicated bicycle lanes and car-free zones to both encourage fitness and maintain the beauty of the cities.

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