Coming from Odisha’s Dhenkanal district, 19-year-old Sasmita Nayak stood proudly alongside several women grassroots entrepreneurs who were honoured at the India Commemoration of the IWD by UN Women India. Sasmita, who currently works as an SMO at a clothing company in Tamil Nadu’s Tiripur is sharing responsibility with her farmer father as the breadwinner of the family.
19-year-old Sasmita Nayak stepped in to take responsibility for her family of six members after her farmer father and older brother suffered a setback in their health. In a free-wheeling conversation, she shares with us what it means for her to be earning at 19, how she turned obstacles into opportunities, and how the digital world empowers her.
Sasmita Nayak Journey
Sasmita Nayak grew up in a family of farmers in the Dhenkanal district of Odisha. One of five siblings, she had to leave her education midway after her older brother, who was the family's second earning member apart from her father, got a long-term illness. Sasmita was in her mid-teens when she realised her family would not be able to sustain itself solely on the work of her father who barely managed to make an income with an on-off season of farming.
In Sasmita's words, "the journey of becoming 'aatmanirbhar' has been empowering," because she gained an identity through it all. "Yes, I came across a difficult time and faced challenges but I decided to turn them into opportunities and persisted anyway," she says. While Sasmita did not have an option back then but to just pick up the pieces and work hard to sustain herself, she decided to learn along the way too.
With the help of the organisation Aaina under the UN Women India project, she started training in various skills in order to land some good working opportunities. Sasmita today works as an SMO at a clothing company in Tamil Nadu and earns enough to be able to send money back home to Odisha.
"Yes, I came across a difficult time and faced challenges but I decided to turn them into opportunities and persisted."
Digital media, she adds, is what enables her most today as it helps her not just save time but also learn everything she missed out on earlier. "As my primary responsibility, sending money home has become easier because of digital assistance. And then there is so much learning as well, there was a time I would think that I will not be able to find new interests in life, but with the power of the internet today, I can learn anything with the tap of my fingers."
Sasmita sure does have a lot to look forward to, especially because she gave up on her education and teen years at a time when her family needed her most. It's because of this reason that she values the significance of education more than anything. Ask her what she would tell young girls her age and she says, "I had to leave my education but when given a chance, I started learning again. If there are girls out there who have had to face such challenges too, I want to tell them to persist and never give up."
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.