‘Beta, business karke kya karogi? Ghar ka kaam seekho’ — entrepreneurship is commonly seen as more of a man’s thing than it is seen as a woman’s. In an attempt to dispel the stereotype around female entrepreneurs, the students of Lady Shri Ram for Women (LSR) have started a project Basta: Waste to Worth.
“Being female students, we have often been discriminated against and entrepreneurship is seen as something that is beyond our understanding. We wanted to kick start a movement led by women that will show people that even women can be amazing entrepreneurs and also catalyze the energy of youth for a good cause,” says Malvika Verma, co-founder and BA (Hons) Philosophy student.
Founded in August 2015 by Akshita Singla — a BA (Hons) Philosophy student, and Apoorva Sharma — a BA (Hons) Economics student, and Verma, Basta operates under NSS (National Student Scheme) LSR and has around 30 student members.
The initiative also aims to impart entrepreneurial and livelihood skills to underserved women from rural areas. Under the program, these women learn how to refashion bags out of waste flex sheets and waste cloth, and they will also partake in paper recycling workshops.
About her experience since the team started the project, Verma adds, “Even when my friends discussed it with their parents, though they were supportive, they did say things like ‘IAS ke liye kyu nahi prepare kar leti’ and itni mehnat karke kya karogi’. We started working with ten women, three months later three of them left. Now we have twenty, most of whom haven’t told their families that they work with us.”
Singla says, “We started off working with rural women living in Shyampur village, Uttar Pradesh, and have now expanded to Zamrudpur village in Delhi. The women are involved in each and every step, from procurement of raw material to sales. They need to learn how to run and handle their business because if we do move on from the initiative at some point, the women alone will be able to sustain it.”
Aarti Tiwari, a Zamrudpur resident and a stitching master, says, “Only 5-6 of us knew how to stitch. The other women couldn’t even thread a needle. We have them four hour long stitching classes every day and in September, we completed our first bulk order of 150 cloth bags. It’s a proud feeling. Sabko kaam aa jayega isse accha kya hoga?”