Meet Prachi Kaushik, a changemaker devoted to carving a better path for underprivileged women in India. She is the entrepreneur behind Vyomini, a social enterprise that assists women towards social and financial independence through education, better health, and skill training. Kaushik’s vision is not to merely take women out of adversity but to equip them with the ability to be self-reliant. The Vrindavan-based social activist has touched the lives of over 20,000 grassroots women in India.
In an interview with SheThePeople, Prachi Kaushik articulated her passion for women’s rights, inspired by her own life. Her story is awe-inspiring, as it recognises women’s fathomless ability to change the game once they break out of societal confines holding them back.
Kaushik's Road To Financial Freedom
Prachi Kaushik grew up in Delhi in an economically less fortunate family, where women’s education was compromised. However, she had the grit of a trailblazer right from a young age and refused to discontinue her studies despite her family’s pressure and financial challenges.
She said, “In my family, there was no culture of girls getting higher education. They feared that getting a higher education would make it very difficult to find a groom for us. Another fear was the security of girls when they travelled to school. So, the trend was that after 10th standard, they got girls married; but I refused to marry and pursued my education and career.”
Kaushik described how she tackled economic hardships to fulfil her dreams. “After 12th (standard) I wanted to pursue higher education, but my family could not sustain the government college fee, which was Rs 2000 at that time. So, I started earning and paid my own fees and completed my graduation,” she said. She also helped her younger siblings pursue their education. Kaushik then went on to pursue a Master’s in Political Science and Human Rights from the prestigious Delhi University.
Being vocal about women’s rights, Kaushik started working with local NGOs for a few years before joining the government’s Ministry of Women and Child Development. A few years later, in 2016, she decided to start her venture, Vyomini.
Birth Of A Game-Changer Startup
Despite her personal challenges and economic burdens, Kaushik was determined to help underprivileged women and disseminate awareness of women’s rights. “I started from ground zero to help women have good health and economic independence. Initially, I had no money. I used to go alone on buses and get help to go to remote villages. I was doing menstrual health management campaigns and gradually people started joining me.”
Her venture was more than just about menstrual health awareness but also training women to make hygienic, eco-friendly, and affordable menstrual products for themselves and other women in the community. “Instead of social work, I wanted to create a social enterprise, where we make a (sustainable) product that people can buy and we get the revenue which we spend on our staff, offices, etc. So I have organised things in such a way that we get to we get break-even time easily and don’t have to depend on funds or charities,” Kaushik explained.
In 2018, a golden opportunity to upscale Kaushik’s venture presented itself. A government initiative called Startup India hosted an event in Delhi, where she got the chance to demonstrate her work to important delegates. Lucky for Kaushik, actor Akshay Kumar had come there to promote his film, Pad Man, which pivoted around menstrual health awareness. Kaushik’s venture along the same lines was highly appreciated at the event, giving her business the boost it required.
Sharing a core memory from that time, she narrated, “My story was published in the newspapers and magazines. A big media house made me the cover story of their magazine and that was the first time I had seen someone like me, a normal middle-class girl, achieve something like that.” Since then, Kaushik also won several awards and recognition for her community work.
Going Above And Beyond
At its core, Kaushik’s venture is about menstrual health and economic upliftment. However, she knew that these were not the only issues holding women back. Kaushik promotes education for girls by counselling their parents against getting them married at a young age. Moreover, she and her team also help survivors of domestic violence or similar issues to access legal assistance and regain confidence.
Dealing with such sensitive issues requires tremendous patience and empathy for the rural community. Kaushik explained, “We have to understand that different women are going through different scenarios or trauma. First, we do counselling with them and we have to be polite, and we have to understand the kind of pain they are going through. After we completely get to know what the issues are we help them with legal assistance. Then that confidence within them will grow naturally and gradually.”
Kaushik said that financial confidence is a crucial way to get survivors to break out of dire situations. She said, “The main challenge that women face is that they feel insecure because they don’t have money. So after we help them, we identify their skills– maybe sewing, maybe farming– and we motivate them that they can contribute to nation-building. Not only in monetary ways but also by being a mentor to others.”
At the grassroots level, women face a labyrinth of sanitation, social, administrative, and domestic issues that cannot be solved overnight. Prachi Kaushik is dedicated to deeply understanding this cause-and-effect link of issues to tackle them right from the bottom. She is a fervent advocate for women’s independence and acts as a catalyst in their journey to finding self-identity.