Like many young girls from poor families in rural India, Sugrabi Ajji Mulani was married off at the age of thirteen - ‘I wanted to go to school very desperately but maybe because of being a daughter or maybe because we were so poor, I never got a chance to do that.’
With no formal education or technical training, Sugrabi worked as a daily wage labourer which gave her hardly enough income to make ends meets. However, after the birth of her children, finances became ever more strained. She says, ‘My husband was very lazy and procrastinated all time. I wanted to have a stable source of income, especially because we had four children. I realised that if I did not start earning properly soon, my children would suffer just like I did’.
Sugrabi decided to set a mutton shop. As this was usually a man’s job, she faced relentless harassment from her family and her community. She would have to travel to nearby villages to buy goats and lambs which she then slaughtered and sold herself.
Unfortunately, Sugrabi’s challenges didn’t stop here. The income form her mutton shop was still not enough and her husband abandoned her leaving her with nothing.
It was then that she found Mann Deshi Foundation. Yearning to improve her circumstances and give her children a better life, she enrolled in the Mann Deshi Business School. Here she learned essential skills in financial literacy and business that helped her build the confidence to expand her own.
“I got training in financial management, which was very helpful, and the bank gave me loans to expand my business. But most of all, I met so many other women like me which made me feel less alone.”
With her newly attained skills and confidence, Sugrabi started her own bangle and hen rearing business. Owing to her success, she managed to build a home for herself and her family and send all her children to school. One of her sons now owns his own auto garage that she helped set up, while another son is a working professional. Her oldest daughter works as a nurse and her youngest is completing her diploma in Education.
With access to the right tools and training, Sugrabi managed to pull her family out of a very tough place. She is very proud of her achievements and when asked how she had managed to overcome so many obstacles, she proudly said – “My courage is my capital.”
Her story is an inspiration to all of us.