Meet Radha, a young mother who is striving to make ends meet while facing multiple challenges. Radha is an example of a mother and entrepreneur who is building a generation that can stay out of poverty.
Radha, a war victim of the 30-year Civil war in Sri Lanka which ended in 2009, is a disabled mother with two young children, living in a remote hill country town. She is also illiterate.
Despite her disability and the other challenges she faces on a daily basis, Radha is a persevering person and has learned to knit and crochet. She is supporting her husband and family by knitting and crochet work, producing caps and shawls which are in demand in the hill country.
One of the major challenges she faced was overcoming discouragement since no one was to encourage, train and mentor her. The community she lives in is also backward historically and people tend to demotivate others. Living in a demotivated society with high unemployment and underemployment was a challenge she had to overcome
Our partner Jennifer who runs Joseph’s Foundation met Radha when conducting a training program for vulnerable women entrepreneurs who are persisting in the face of multiple challenges but need equipping and handholding to step out of their limitations.
Being a women entrepreneur herself Jennifer empathizes with the challenges that these women face. After the training program was completed, Jennifer continued to stay in touch with Radha and several of these women, helping them with marketing and technical advice. In March 2021 through a donation sourced by Leadership in Action, Jennifer was able to purchase and donate a small number of tools and materials to Radha to help expand her knitting and crocheting business.
Jennifer continued to share information with Radha over the telephone on new products and designs. Since Radha is illiterate, Jennifer shares photographs and drawings with her. Even this is a challenge since Radha uses a basic analogue phone! Jennifer has been able to help Radha design and create new items including jewellery. She also supports her by promoting Radha’s products and arranging for delivery and sale as well.
The donation of materials combined with the coaching and hand-holding by Jennifer has helped this poor disadvantaged young mother take several steps forward on her journey out of poverty.
When Jennifer checked on Radha recently she was pleasantly surprised. Radha is now engaged in many business activities and not only crocheting. She is preparing food parcels and sweets and selling them while planning to have her own food cart soon as well. She also purchases ladies’ clothes in bulk from Colombo and resells them in the markets of the nearby towns of Nuwaraeliya and Nanuoya.
Radha is also helping young girls without jobs by training them to be salespeople. She empowers these young girls by encouraging them and by conducting classes on how to make crochet products.
What difference has our intervention made in her family? Despite being a poor disabled person living on a tea estate without even a good proper house of her own, she is now able to send her children to a fee-levying private school!
Training and mentoring are what have helped her this far and now she knows how to face challenges on her own. Even though she is uneducated she is talented and hardworking and has a special quality. She is not depending on one income source but is multitasking to create diversified sources of income!.
When asked how she is managing to sell ladies’ garments when there are already many big stores nearby, her answer was surprisingly different. Radha says that most of the estate girls and ladies are shy to buy certain garments in a big store or from street vendors. She targets these ladies directly and is successfully running the business by focusing on selected ladies’ garments only.
Radha is also planning on impacting several women in her community in the future. She has already begun teaching crocheting to others, both to empower them as well as to help create an additional source of revenue for them
This is a great example of how partnerships, training, seed capital, coaching and mentoring, subject matter expertise and access to markets can all combine to help even an illiterate person grow as an entrepreneur. It is also an inspiring example of one woman entrepreneur reaching out to empower another woman entrepreneur who in turn empowers other women entrepreneurs.
Empowering a women entrepreneur results in a woman being equipped to run a business and multiple revenue streams created , resulting in children being fed and schooled, as well as developing a leader who empowers other women in the community, thus building a generation that can stay out of poverty.
All this with just a little investment and a lot of heart!
A little bit about Joseph’s Foundation
Joseph’s Foundation is one of the implementing partners of Leadership In Action in Sri Lanka
Vision: “Capacity Building, Creating Opportunities for women Entrepreneurs to overcome Challenges”.
Mission: “Shining for the Empowerment and wellbeing of women entrepreneurs to bring out their best creative Ideas”.
JF is passionate about helping women entrepreneurs who are facing challenges and is committed to walking alongside them on their journey out of poverty. JF is focused on working with the following groups using newly recycled and up-cycled projects:
- Widows, Women Headed Households, Women Entrepreneurs, Women having Children with Disabilities and other Dependants
- Youth, Young Adults and Teenagers.
- War affected women, Street Children and women.
- Drug Addict Victims and Sex-trafficking Victims
JF has successfully completed 10 livelihood projects during 2021 despite the restrictions of the covid 19 pandemic. Seed capital for these women entrepreneurs was raised by LIA. JF also created a small marketing hub for these ladies and their products.