Of the several inspirational women that I encountered at the UN Women India’s country office during the India commemoration of IWD 2023, Maharashtra’s Harshda Kalu emerged as one powerful trailblazer for several reasons.
She spoke to SheThePeople about her business, how she finds empowerment through her work, why her work taught her more about women’s healthcare, and how financial independence also gave her a purpose.
Grassroots Entrepreneurs Stories: Harshda Journey
Up until 2019, Harshda Kadu did not think she could also make a difference in society. Having been a homemaker and a mother to two children, she assumed her life was limited to her family and her house. It was a severe phase of financial crunch when she realised that she cannot just sit at home at a time when the expenses were skyrocketing, and her spouse’s income wasn’t enough for them to sustain. Interestingly, going out to work gave her more than just money; it gave her independence and, more importantly, a purpose.
Today, 36-year-old Harshda owns a satisfactory business selling sanitary napkins and she does more than just acquiring and selling; she also creates awareness among women in rural households and helps them understand the significance of healthcare. “In 2019, I came across this organisation called Chaitanya which was helping women like me earn a livelihood, and that’s how I discovered this form of business,” she recalls.
Four years later, Harshda is functioning as an entrepreneur and building her network gradually. What keeps her content at the end of the day, she adds, is that she can provide for her children’s needs and wants, something that felt like a distant dream once.
“A woman who had no clue how to live a life beyond the earning of her husband is now living on her own terms, supported by her own earning. This gives me immense hope.”
How digitalisation enables her
With the internet rapidly enabling small-scale businesses past decade, several women have banked on digital assets to not just establish businesses but also popularise them. In Harshda’s case, it’s one of the key components that keep her business sailing. “I do not just take orders through social media and phone, I also advertise my work, and business has picked up due to it. Payments have become easier to track and I don’t have to spend extra time in accumulating contacts as everything is systemically organised digitally now,” she shares.
How she aims to serve the larger purpose
Harshda, who initially started working to earn money and contribute to her household income, discovered a purpose of serving the community as well. As someone who learned the harsh ground realities of degrading menstrual healthcare in the remote regions around her, she decided to not just sell sanitary napkins but also help spread awareness about their importance.
Harshda came across women who did not know the ABCs of menstrual health, leave alone understand which sanitary napkins were safe enough to be used. “While looking for financial independence, I also found a purpose. My work also helps me understand the problems young girls and women face when it comes to menstrual healthcare and whenever I get a chance, I join initiatives where I can impart knowledge about prioritising the same.”
My journey is proof enough that women can start anytime, anywhere, and there’s no reason why they should be confined to the four walls of the house.
This story is part of the #KisiSeKumNahi series. UN Women India and SheThePeopleTV come together to celebrate women’s leadership with #KisiSeKumNahi, tales of women’s empowerment.
Suggested reading: How Odisha’s Sulochana Reclaimed Decision-Making Power By Earning Her Own Money