Hamirpur, March 11, 2024: Nestled in the heart of Darla Panchayat, against the picturesque backdrop of Hamirpur’s serene landscapes, a self-help group comprising ten determined women is crafting a narrative of empowerment and entrepreneurship. Adi Shiv Dham Swayam Sahayata Samooh stands as a testament to women’s empowerment and community development through culinary entrepreneurship, driven by their unwavering resolve to seize opportunities and shape their own destinies.

Established in January 2023, Adi Shiv Dham Swayam Sahayata Samooh embarked on a culinary odyssey steeped in tradition and innovation. Specializing in the production of nutritious food items and snacks, the group’s endeavours span the creation of millet-based delicacies such as Ragi Laddoos and Ragi Churma, alongside an array of mouthwatering healthy snacks including Soya Badiya, Atta Momos, Vegetable Noodles, Biscuits, and Achaar.

However, their journey was not without its share of challenges. Initially met with scepticism due to societal norms and the lack of support and guidance, the women persevered with the assistance of the Anil Agarwal Foundation. Through Project Nand Ghar, an initiative transforming conventional Anganwadis into modern centres for Women & Child Development, they found a lifeline. Under Nand Ghar’s guidance, facilitated by workshops conducted by the Institute of Hotel Management, the women honed essential culinary skills and nutritional knowledge, paving the way for their entrepreneurial venture.

With newfound expertise, they established a weekly stall in their block, showcasing their products and generating income for themselves and their families. Their dedication to quality and nutrition earned them recognition within the community, alongside FCCAI certification to uphold stringent quality and safety standards. Their entrepreneurial spirit reached new heights as they represented Hamirpur District at prestigious events such as the Himachal Saras Mela in Chandigarh and the Vedanta Culture Festival at Dilli Haat in the national capital. Here, they showcased their culinary creations, garnering acclaim and income, selling out within days. With Nand Ghar’s support they also collaborated with the Integrated Child Development Services department, to supply Ragi Laddoos for pregnant and lactating women in Anganwadi Centres, furthering their economic outlook and creating an impact on maternal and child health.

Sarita Devi, a proud member of the SHG, encapsulates their journey, stating, “AAF & Nand Ghar saw potential in us when others didn’t, and they gave us the tools and confidence to pursue our dreams. I never imagined that our passion for cooking could turn into something so meaningful.” Today, Sarita Devi represents the thousands of women positively impacted by AAF, receiving training, access to credit, and support services through Nand Ghar, fostering entrepreneurship and economic independence. At Nand Ghar, the selection of local trades is based on village profile and local economy. 30 women are trained per batch over a specified period on a rolling basis. Post training, the women are gainfully employed and are supported to make their business plans as required. With a newfound sense of independence and confidence, these women envision a future where they can continue to expand their horizons and contribute even more to their family’s well-being.

In a world where gender equality remains an ongoing struggle, the story of these women serves as a reminder that with perseverance and proper support, women can break barriers, defy expectations, and chart their own path to success. This International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the Sarita Devis of the world and reaffirm our commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all.