Pushpaleela, from Thalagasipalli, was a wage laborer belonging to disadvantaged community. As a middle-aged illiterate woman it was quite hard for her to shift to a new profession. She and her husband, Devadas, also own almost two acres of land. However, they were not able to cultivate anything due to the dry spells that ail Anantapur. This forced them to find other sources of income.
Her husband was a community teacher earning merely Rs. 1,000 which was not enough for them and their three children. Thus, Pushpaleela decided to start her own petty shop. Even though it was a gamble there was scope for success since there was no such shop in their village and everyone had to travel far for their weekly provisions.
“We had no experience but we ventured because there was a scope to earn something to meet our basic needs at that critical period,” explains Devadas.
With the support of her husband, Pushpaleela withdraw a loan of Rs. 8,000 from the Women’s Development Fund (WDF), a fund facilitated by the Rural Development Trust through the women self-help groups. With that money she started her very own petty shop, taking a drastic change from her previous job as a daily wage laborer.
After a while, Pushpaleela single-handedly started managing her shop and became proficient in measures and weights. She knew the prices of everything in her shop. The couple divided their tasks: Devadas would buy all the provisions wholesale and she would manage the shop. This petty shop became a means for people to get together and talk about their everyday lives irrespective of their socioeconomic backgrounds.
“People from both BC and OC come to our shop to buy provisions. A majority of them are women who sit and share the news about their families and the village. Such a cordial exchange of feelings reduces the distance between different communities,” says Pushpaleela. She sells all her products at MRP and is quite proud of the fact that everyone in the village trusts her to be fair with the costs.
Pushpaleela has since expanded her business into a bigger provisions store and they now keep things ranging from spices to food grains, soaps, essential oils, and many other things. The petty shop business has given Pushpaleela confidence and independence as she now generates her own income. Around 70% of women in India still depend on their male counterparts to provide for them, a daunting number considering the population of India.
“I still remember those days when I had to save one rupee and even less and take permission from my husband to buy even a jacket piece costing Rs.20. Today I can take the independent decision to buy any sari or household articles and later inform him,” says Pushpaleela proudly. Women belonging to disadvantages communities often face double discrimination: for their origin and for their sex. Economic independence not only provides confidence but also provides them with stability and paves the way to equality.