Prema Gopalan of Pune based Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) was conferred with the Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) India Award 2018 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, the sister organisation of the World Economic Forum in association with Jubilant Bhartia Foundation of Jubilant Bhartia group Thursday evening. Gopalan’s SSP model is revitalising rural economies by putting women in the forefront of entrepreneurship. Working in areas affected by global climate change, it has unleashed women farmers, entrepreneurs and grassroots business leaders who are solving the problems of their communities through small businesses.
Prema Gopalan and her team have built vibrant eco-systems to enable 145,000 women to succeed in remote and ailing markets. The SSP model comprises four ventures: a federated network of 5000 self-help-groups (SHGs); a resilience fund for women-led businesses; a rural school of entrepreneurship and leadership for women; and a market aggregator that provides warehousing, branding, marketing and distribution services to last-mile business women. In addition, it has catalysed the government, investors, financial institutions and Indian and global corporations to partner directly with grassroots women business leaders.
Over two decades, this has had a domino effect in 2,000 climate-threatened villages across six states of India. There are 97,874 women in drought and flood-affected villages have set up enterprises in clean energy, sanitation, basic health services, nutrition and safe agriculture. They have transitioned from self-employment to diversify their ventures, aggregate into value chains and mentor thousands of others to get on the path of entrepreneurship. There are 46,750 women have claimed their identities as farmers. A majority have land deeds in their name. 900 women are recognised locally as climate resilience leaders and 500 are playing a role in local governance. Their family incomes have increased by 45 percent to 55 percent. The 30,000 acres of arid land have been converted for organic farming and cultivation of food crops.
SSP’s grassroots women entrepreneurs are taking their communities forward as part of their business success. As SSP partners with the government to scale its model, it is demonstrating that investing in rural women entrepreneurs can be a solid strategy for transforming India.