Transforming Women, Transforming Lives

Swayam Shikshan Prayog , India

Shreya Mehta on June 8, 2018 in Women Empowerment

Since 1993, the Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) has been encouraging women in disaster affected areas to rebuild their lives by transforming them into entrepreneurs and successful leaders. SSP has been instrumental in providing them the requisite skills and entrepreneurship training, access to microfinance, guidance in marketing and affordable healthcare.

SSP was conceived in an attempt to overcome the aftermath of the Latur earthquake that hit Maharashtra and destroyed over 52 villages, killing 10,000 people and injuring over 30000 people. By educating and empowering women, SSP ensured restoration of basic services and restarting schools. In all SSP has helped over 1,45,000 women on their journeys of entrepreneurship and helped them augment their household income by over 5000 rupees per month.

Over 5000 villages have benefited from the Program and since then it has partnered with 5500 self-help groups from marginalized areas with the support of various local and state government bodies and corporate partners. Today the reach of the program has crossed the boundaries of Maharashtra and extended to Gujarat, Assam, Bihar, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

The SSP in 2006 had partnered with the group BP energy to create smokeless stoves in a venture called Sakhi Retail that was a huge success. It was a turning point in the journey of SSP. Seeing the potential, SSP soon realized that there was a need to expand in various other sectors and amenities. So, in 2009, SSP decided to create an ecosystem for the same and thus the Swayam Shikshan Prayog of Social Enterprises came into being.

The year 2012 was another turning point when SSP was awarded a competitive grant from USAID/India to roll out the country’s first Women’s Entrepreneurship in Clean Energy Program. Today SSP works not only in disaster affected areas, but also in various remote and inaccessible areas.

Since the last 8 years, SSP and its associates have created a robust ecosystem that has driven women to set up enterprises in retail, clean energy, water, and sanitation. The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership Initiative (WELI) and the Unnati Fellowship are some of the many initiatives of SSP that have helped women establish their enterprises and social initiatives across India.

In 2017, SSP was conferred with the prestigious United Nations Development Program’s Equator Prize. SSP had developed an ‘ecologically sustainable agricultural model’ so as to combat the adverse impacts of drought’. Not only did the project develop enhanced livelihood, but it also led to food security and empowerment of women. Protection of soil and water through bio-farming and water harvesting were also some key features that were deeply appreciated.

Prema Gopalan, the Founder and Executive Director of SSP in her message says, “Evidence from SSP’s change stories show us that the time has come for key stakeholders such as government and international agencies to recognize the critical role of grassroots women as knowledge experts in leading the change in climate-threatened geographies. SSP has laid the foundation for women-led community development and now, 20 years later, we look forward to scaling the impact achieved to outreach over 2,00,000 farmers and entrepreneurs over the next five years.”

In an ongoing project, the SSP is also implementing the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) initiative (2016-19) with the backing from the Government of Maharashtra. The goal of MKSP is to sustain and assist over 21,000 women farmers in adopting improved agriculture practices in 450 villages across two districts in Maharashtra.

The SSP success stories are a true reflection of the fact that women are no longer just beneficiaries but have emerged to be financially independent forces and partners in creating better prospects and amenities for their respective families and communities.

To read more about the inspirational work they are doing, visit Swayam Shikshan Prayog today!

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