Mann Deshi is India’s first Business School for illiterate rural women. The School provides comprehensive training and support in accountancy, marketing and technical skills such as embroidery, tailoring, agribusiness training including dairy, veterinary and silk production. Graduates can then launch their own business or improve already existing enterprises. 68% of women entrepreneurs said that their position in the family improved after they took Mann Deshi business classes.

The British Asian Trust chose to work alongside Mann Deshi because it provided a future for women living in a district where on average 65% of women are illiterate. We are proud to say that since 2006, 16,000 women have been trained at the Mann Deshi School and over 11,000 new business women have been created. The organisation aims to encourage the achivement of social goals that include empowerment, asset creation, leadership development, capacity building and property rights for women. It does this in the areas of economic well-being and education.

Diya Mukarji, British Asian Trust’s India Project Manager, visited the project and spoke to Uma Chavan, a young woman, whose Tyre Repair Shop is thriving thanks to Mann Deshi and The British Asian Trust.  She told her story below: 

The story of Mann Deshi has become a collection of stories of these women who have challenged existing roles of women in their families and communities, providing an alternative narrative of women as enterprising, confident, and financially successful individuals in their own right - Diya Mukarji

I met some inspirational women during my visit to Mann Deshi; one particular story that stuck with me was of a young woman called Uma Chavan who runs a little tyre repair shop. She works with tyres on bicycles, motorbikes and recently, cars- she is often asked why she is doing a ‘man’s job’, but her quality of work speaks for itself. Her choice of business challenges traditional ideals of the kind of work women should typically do in India. Uma won the Mann Deshi Udyojika Program 2013 for her business and she invested the award money she received back into her shop, buying machinery required to expand her services.

Uma was born in 1986 in Bidani village located in Phaltan tehsil of the Satara district. Life for Uma was normal until her family suffered a few setbacks and her father started tending to his farm land. As Uma’s father had six daughters and he could no longer raise all of them, he started marrying them off at an early age. Similar to her other sisters, Uma had to marry at the tender age of 13. Uma is educated to the 8th standard and was a housewife until she came across Mann Deshi. She initially took out a loan of IRS 50,000 and attended various business school classes including financial literacy and the Mann Deshi MBA program. She has since opened a savings account with Mann Deshi Bank and saves about IINR100 a week - something that she had never been able to do before. Uma believes that her engagement with the Mann Deshi Foundation has helped her identify what other ventures she could run alongside her tyre repair shop. The success of her business has boosted her confidence and her drive to make the shop a success. Over 2 years, she has succeeded in expanding the business and has set up a stationery shop next to her bicycle repair shop. Her weekly income has gone up from INR 400-600 to around 2000-7000 a month providing financial stability and an opportunity to build assets. She has now applied for a second loan to grow the business further. “

Everybody looks at me with doubt in their eyes -  they tend not to be confident of my abilities when they bring their tyres to me. Thanks to my ability and skills, everybody in the village now knows that Uma can repair their bikes - Uma

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