This article by Uthara Narayanan, our Chief Changemaker, appeared in Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship’s newsletter.
Geeta had to quit her job at a garment factory when her mother could not manage taking care of her special needs child at home. Her mother took up a job in the garment factory in Geeta’s place to ensure the income comes in. Each time Geeta’s husband, who also worked at the garment factory, took off from work to take their child to the hospital, he lost the day’s wages. It was also not easy to manage the displeasure of his superiors for his absence. After Geeta attended a capacity building programme run by Buzz Women, she gained the courage to start a tailoring business along with her husband. She rented the shop next door to her house and started earning enough to make ends meet. She works in the shop early mornings and late nights when her husband and mother take care of her child. And during the day she teaches other women to sew while her child is next to her. She told me, ‘Rather than moping over what happened to my child, I decided it’s time to move on; to take charge and do something with my life.’
Studies show that only 5% of the world’s population are entrepreneurs. The rest of the population prefers working for someone else or be part of the gig economy.
There is research that establishes that many underdeveloped countries have high rates of entrepreneurs due to lack of other opportunities. These are mainly necessity entrepreneurs because they have no better or no other choice to avoid unemployment.
Given the large population that needs to be employed, the solution advocated currently is to make everyone ‘job creators’ rather than ‘job seekers’. Essentially saying that everyone should become an entrepreneur to solve the unemployment problem. It is an interesting idea but we should experiment and see if we are able to do it. I say ‘experiment’ since research shows that making everyone an entrepreneur is not yet a practical solution.
Geeta’s story tells you what is more important is to look at solutions that work for each individual. Currently, entrepreneurship development programmes are looking at hard skilling, financial connects or market connects – all of which are essential. What is of utmost importance is to provide a space where every individual can think for themselves. A space that gives them enough knowledge, skills and tools so that they can hear their own voices which have been suppressed by generations of disempowerment. The only true way to foster entrepreneurship is to begin with the work on ‘self’. This will help the individual chart her way that is holistically empowering to her life with dignity not just economically.