It’s lunchtime; I jump into a rickshaw with Jaya, a trainer working with one of Accion’s Dialogue on Business (DoB) partner organisations SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) and we head out, workshop materials in hand, into the heat and bustle of Ahmedabad. We pass from the new part of town into the old city, and in between pointing out landmarks of interest, Jaya talks me through her decades of business training experience and what she herself has learnt from her entrepreneurs during the DoB programme here in Gujarat.
We arrive at our training location, what I’m told is a typical urban underprivileged neighbourhood in Parixitlal Nagar, Ahmedabad, and wonder through small, colourful alleyways to reach the family home in which the training will be delivered. The owners of the property graciously usher us in and Jaya begins to prepare the living room walls by hanging her flip chart and related training materials. I notice how the three-roomed house has been cleared of its furniture (stored carefully in the kitchen at the back) to create an open space where the entrepreneurial visitors can sit. The female members of the family owning the property relax together outside with the children, waiting in a courtyard area as their home gradually fills with returning businesswomen, dressed in bright colours and exchanging excited greetings.
Each round of training with a group of entrepreneurs lasts for four days and covers four principle areas of business tuition sequentially: Self Management, Enterprise Management, Financial Management and Marketing Management. Today is the fourth day and the final instalment of the training programme; the women, most of whom have attended every day so far, are eager to finish their course and receive for what may be for many, the first certificate they have ever achieved. Across the age range present today, I admire the motivation in each of these busy women to dedicate four hours of their precious time over almost a week. Added to that, continual concentration in oppressive heat is tough, but they are engaged, keen to participate and constantly smiling.
Among the group are both seasoned businesswomen and women with budding ideas and aspirations of starting their own enterprises. Through this, experiences are shared and horizontal, peer-to-peer learning also takes place, with the women themselves able to provide even more contextually relevant, practical stories and illustrations that support the training concepts. Jaya invites a more senior participant to share her experiences of taking out a loan, drawing upon her example to highlight what she did correctly, where she went wrong and how she can now make more informed decisions to protect herself.
As I observed, I found it moving to simply be able to witness the work at hand. To see Jaya delivering new ideas and to see the women taking on board concepts and techniques that have the potential to change not only their businesses but their lives. The training came to an end with a series of group-enacted role plays, demonstrating the newly learnt information in an enjoyable and interactive way. Then it was time for the award ceremony, and as each woman came forward to receive her certificate and thank Jaya, resounding rounds of applause broke out, much to the intrigue of the neighbours!
I was invited to participate in awarding the certificates, pose for photographs, meet the neighbourhood’s children and finally take tea with the incredibly hospitable family in their now empty home, and was overwhelmed by warmth and affection. At the end of the day, I felt a tangible sense of satisfaction and achievement in the air throughout the building as I departed from what felt like family and old friends. I wish these bright entrepreneurial graduates every success in their enterprising futures.