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Train + empower disadvantaged women in India

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Shakti.ism  is a social enterprise which aims to empower women from marginalised communities in India, especially those at risk of being impacted by gender-based violence.

We partner with existing grassroots NGOs in India which work with disadvantaged women in marginalised communities. We focus on marketing their existing skills, of which they have many.  The idea is to preserve their skills and traditions, sell their beautiful creations and empower them to become self-sustainable, have ownership of their earnings, and maintain their independence.

We make it possible for disadvantaged women to gain employable and transferable skills, give them the chance to earn a fair living wage and not rely solely on the income of males, we provide fair working conditions, safe supportive spaces, and we support and encourage entrepreneurship to break the cycle of poverty.

The women create products using upcycled materials, which are then sold by Shakti.ism. As a true (nonprofit) social business, profits are invested back into the makers and their communities to ensure good working conditions are maintained, to allow for additional training, education and benefits, and to allow more women to take part in the programme. We hope to include more women and expand to other countries upon positive impact.

We use locally sourced traditional fabrics which would otherwise be thrown away for the products which will be created (for example, upcycling secondhand traditional Indian saris to create bags and other products). 

Close to 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas with limited to no access to basic sanitation, health services, or electricity. Lack of access to these basic services contributes to widespread poverty, unemployment, and increasing indebtedness of households. Women in India are often seen as second-class citizens compared to men, so opportunities are even more limited. Women are not often in control of their finances, family situations or even their own earnings, and marginalised women even more so. Marginalised women are also highly susceptible to gender-based violence, as there is so much stigma surrounding women's expectations. For example, women who end up being trafficked, raped, or divorced tend to be outcast by society, and are valued even less than women who were not impacted by similar situations.

Wage disparity is widespread, but offering women opportunities to earn income and have a say in their households is empowering and can be life changing for women and their families. Studies show that correcting this gender imbalance can increase the prosperity of the country as a whole. Giving money to a woman is a short-term solution, but empowering her with skills and self-confidence is a change that can’t be undone and the benefits are endless. 

Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. But they also remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Gender discrimination means women often end up in insecure, low-wage jobs, and constitute a small minority of those in senior positions. It curtails access to economic assets such as land and loans. It limits participation in shaping economic and social policies. And, because women perform the bulk of household work, they often have little time left to pursue economic opportunities.

The gross national income per capita in India is just $2,020 per year, or roughly $168 per month. By providing an opportunity for marginalised women to obtain transferable skills like sewing, we can help them to achieve financial independence. Empowering women to earn their own steady income means that they will be able to provide food, clothing, and other basic necessities and education for their children and other family members.

According to the UN, When women work, they invest 90% of their income back into their families, compared with 35 percent for men. By focusing on girls and women, innovative businesses and organisations can spur economic progress, expand markets, and improve health and education outcomes for everyone.

Follow along on our journey to empower disadvantaged women in India at


Jitna Bhagani

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