Renuka Vatel had only known of life inside her house that revolved around taking care of her family. She had never stepped out of Pune to explore a world that lies beyond. This was all until she set foot into Abira Creations, a social enterprise which is run by women like Vatel. Abira is the brain child of Anju Bansal and Priyanka Khandelwal, two women who come from diverse backgrounds as the former is the first woman entrepreneur in her family and the latter is the first woman in her family to receive university education.
While Abira is a registered company, all the profits from the wholesale jewellery business goes in the three-month training programme that is given to women for free.
The training program comprises of courses in spoken English, computer literacy, personality development, yoga and Vedanta philosophy, financial and legal literacy, health and Marathi and Hindi reading and writing. The women who come for this training get placed as retail sales staff, fast food chains, child care experts and data entry operators.
“It really irks us to see women who lack confidence.We started Abira to change this mindset. We can bring about confidence by making them financially independent and by giving them knowledge. We both go to China very often and it was so common to see women actively working in different areas out there,” the founders explain. Adding to this, Bansal says that most women are unaware of the potential they have and sees many of them giving up citing their age, “I learnt how to use a computer at the age of 40. Age isn’t a bar, degrees aren’t a bar either.”
All the women working at Abira attend the study sessions in the morning and handle the company’s jewellery business during the rest of the day. They are also allowed to bring their children to work. It is mandatory for them to have bank accounts and official identity documents.
“Most of the women come here and then only get a bank account opened. We have learnt online banking and how to make use of our debit cards. During demonetisation, we weren’t lost. We knew exactly what to do and we were able to help others also,” says Vatel, who now handles the jewellery’s export part.
This enterprise is always looking for volunteers from varying fields that can help expand the knowledge base of the women working. Currently, they have launched their own retail shop website where you can directly buy jewellery and other accessories designed and made by them.
Presently, there are 30 women working while 60 women have completed the training programme. Their target is to hire 150 women by the end of 2017 and impact three lakh women by 2025. Abira in Hebrew means brave and the company was named after creating the concept of a warrior who paves the path for growing and learning in her community. They’re on their way to making more Abiras.
Imagery: Sanket Wankhade for Pune365
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