From Homemakers to Breadwinners
Shakti Ammas are Leading the Way
Around the world, women are restricted from entering the workforce and their household incomes suffer as a result. The Shakti Project is bringing change, enabling women in rural India to successfully balance a work and home life.
Every woman wants only the best for her family. Yet for many women in rural India, they find themselves economically dependent on their husbands. Unable to secure work of their own, and with their husbands remaining the sole breadwinner in an unstable, largely agrarian economy, the household income for many families is often insufficient and cannot meet the requirements of the family. Women being able to contribute financially is something that benefits the whole family, becoming able to care for their loved ones and send their children to school.
Unilever launched Project Shakti back in 2001 with one simple goal: to help empower underprivileged women in India’s rural communities by creating income opportunities that will improve livelihoods.
How does The Shakti Project help women of India?
The project provides training for women, dubbed ‘Shakti Entrepreneurs’ - or ‘Shakti Ammas’ in basic accounting and selling skills through a team of IT enabled Rural Sales Promoters. The Shakti Ammas are taught how to bill orders and manage a stock inventory, as well as basic training in sales techniques and how to run their business efficiently. The women are then able to sell goods directly to the locals and the retailers in their village and give people in otherwise relatively inaccessible areas in the rural heartland easy access to Unilever products.
Shobha is a Shakti Amma, from a small village near Mumbai in Maharashtra. Married at the age of nineteen, she was struggling to make ends meet after the death of her husband. Her son had stopped going to school and their financial condition was becoming worse. Shobha took up training through The Shakti Project. Slowly, her life began to change.
Her quality of life started improving, and she was able to save up money to send her son back to school again. Money aside, the project helped her gain something even more meaningful – respect and dignity.
The Shakti Project has been extended to include men, or ‘Shaktimaans’, who are typically husbands or brothers of the Shakti Ammas. The men are able to service areas outside of their villages on bicycles, and so are able to cover larger ground than the Shakti Ammas, who are usually on foot.
How many people has the project helped so far?
The Shakti Project has already created livelihood-enhancing opportunities for over 70,000 Shakti Entrepreneurs and Shaktimaans to date, across India. The project has furthermore provided access to everyday essentials across 165,000 villages and for over 4 million households to date. With such success, The Shakti Project was customised and adapted in several other countries, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Unilever recognises the significant challenges that women face today. As a company, and as part of our Sustainable Living Plan, we are committed to empowering women, worldwide. The Shakti Project’s success is quite literally in its name (‘Shakti’ means ‘strength’ in Sanskrit). Our belief in the power and strength of women, and their ability to help make local communities self-sustaining, is what drives us to help create a bright future.
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