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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

REPORT: Getting Down to Business

Stories of Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation’s “Rising to Dignity” Award winners.


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Paan shop owners (right) and sari sales ladies (far right) in Maharashtra; dairy business entrepreneurs in Andhra Pradesh (below) Photos: S-ILF


In a small leprosy colony on the outskirts of a town in Chhattisgarh, six middle-aged women took up the challenge of shifting from begging and menial labor to start a dairy business. With financial and technical support from Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF) they bought seven Jersey cows. Initially, the women sold their milk through a middleman, who only paid them around half the market rate. Subsequently, four cows died and they found they had been duped by their insurance company.

Faced with these setbacks, Sheela Jaiswal, Tiharin Bai, Dhan Bai, Sulochna Bai, Heera Bai and Bhoori Bai (see cover photo) were ready to give up, but following a series of counseling sessions and training workshops, they resumed work to rebuild their enterprise. The turning point came when the manager of the hotel where the workshops had been held placed an order to supply the hotel with milk. This gave the enterprise much needed stability and restored the women’s confidence.

With 22 cows and buffalos, their enterprise is thriving today. They have been able to build better homes and buy sheep, goats and poultry to supplement their income. They are a source of inspiration to other members of their colony and are instrumental in its development.

BUSINESS ACUMEN


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Over the past four years, a group of 10 men with mild to moderate disabilities have transformed their lives by establishing a thriving dairy business in their leprosy colony in Andhra Pradesh. Previously reliant on begging and a small government pension, B. Satyanarayana, K. Raghava and the eight others — none of whom had previous experience of dairy farming — purchased five buffalos with funding from S-ILF. Since then, they have demonstrated keen business acumen, working cohesively as a group and adhering to their pre-agreed business plan and guidelines provided by S-ILF.

The group is now looking to use part of its income to buy two to three more animals. Their efforts are spreading the message that with hard work and the right motivation, it is possible to live a life of dignity.

GROWING DEMAND

A group of four women and two men from a leprosy colony in Maharashtra agreed to share assistance from S-ILF to initiate two different projects after attending training programs. The women planned to sell cutlery and the men aspired to sell household items.

The women quickly found there was a larger market for saris and cloth than for cutlery when selling door-to-door. Today, Godavari Parshetti, Shaila Thadkar, Sasikala and Pramila Chinche run a successful sari and cloth material business and have built up an established customer base.

They buy saris and cloth from the local wholesale market, selling door-to-door in nearby villages and receiving customers at their homes. They exude confidence and have shown exemplary resilience for having the courage to step out of their colony to sell in near-by areas.

After a discouraging start selling household items, Mohan Parsuram and Ramarao Ramkrishna decided to revive their ailing paan shop — a stall selling betel leaves — and expand it to sell biscuits and other snacks. They used the funding from S-ILF to invest in a sturdy iron booth and had it painted in bright colors.

Open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, the shop has seen sales pick up. The pair now plan to add stationery products and invest in a photocopier.

FOOTNOTE

The Rising to Dignity Awards are presented each year on Anti-Leprosy Day, January 30.