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Women Entrepreneurship in India

Women are generally perceived as home makers with little to do with economy or commerce. But this picture is changing. In Modern India, more and more women are taking up entrepreneurial activity especially in medium and small scale enterprises.

Even as women are receiving education, they face the prospect of unemployment. In this background, self employment is regarded as a cure to generate income .The Planning commission as well as the Indian government recognizes the need for women to be part of the mainstream of economic development. Women entrepreneurship is seen as an effective strategy to solve the problems of rural and urban poverty.

Traditionally, women in India have been generally found in low productive sectors such as agriculture and household activities. Human Development Report 2004 ranks India 103 in Gender related Development Index (GDI). As per 2001 census; women constitute nearly half of India’s population. Out of this total, 72% were engaged in agriculture, 21.7% in other non agricultural pursuits with only 6.3% in household industries.

Women entrepreneurs in India are handicapped in the matter of organizing and running businesses on account of their generally low levels of skills and for want of support system. The transition from homemaker to sophisticated business woman is not that easy.

But the trend is changing. Women across India are showing an interest to be economically independent. Women are coming forth to the business arena with ideas to start small and medium enterprises. They are willing to be inspired by role models- the experience of other women in the business arena.

The role of women entrepreneurs is especially relevant in the situation of large scale unemployment that the country faces. The modern large scale industry cannot absorb much of labour as it is capital intensive. The small scale industry plays an important role absorbing around 80% of the employment.

The myth that women cannot engage in productive employment needs to be dispelled. They can be encouraged to set up small and medium scale industries on their own initiative. Entrepreneurship development for women is an important factor in economic development of India.

Rural women can be encouraged to start cottage industries. Rural based micro enterprises have been encouraged by the government by various schemes-such as Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP), Training of Rural Youth for Self Employment (TRYSEM), and Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA). The aim is to remove poverty through entrepreneurial programs.

An ILO report on women entrepreneurship identifies the following problems faced by women entrepreneurs.

  1. Lack of family support- Sometimes the family may make the women feel guilty of neglecting household duties in her pursuit of business obligations. Cultural traditions may hold back a woman from venturing into her own business.
  2. Lack of capital-traditional sources of finance like banks are reluctant to lend to women entrepreneurs especially if they do not have any male or family backing. This is especially true of lower income females. Women do not have adequate finance or legal knowledge to start an enterprise.
  3. Lack of confidence and faith-lack of role models undermines the self confidence of women entrepreneurs. The activity of selling is considered abhorrent to the female gender.
  4. Lack of right public/ private institutions: Most public and private incentives are misused and do not reach the woman unless she is backed by a man. Also many trade associations like ministries, chambers of commerce do not cater to  women expecting women’s organizations to do the necessary thing.

The government must evolve appropriate policies to help women entrepreneurs. Networking facilities must be provided as well as adequate entrepreneurship awareness training should be provided using the help of local NGOs. Credit facilities must be made available and marketing help must be provided. All these will help foster a culture of entrepreneurship among women in India.

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