SoochnaPreneur is a rural entrepreneurship-based project aimed at empowering youth in Indian villages to sustain their livelihood by providing information and access to government entitlements to those living in information darkness.
Hemalata Sharma is a 38-year-old from Pipradamaina village in Guna district who has been working as a SoochnaPreneur for the last five years. She recalls, “Earlier I was just a housewife, I wasn’t allowed to go out. But my family because the people in the village used to humiliate them for letting me go out. Looking at the opportunity, I convinced my family. Today, I am an independent woman and people respect me. During my work I also realised the value of education and decided to pursue my graduation as I had only studied till class 12. Now I have a Master’s degree in social work.”
Her first contact with DEF came when she visited the Community Information Resource Centre near her village to get some social work done. She said “when I went there I saw how nicely they were helping people. Back then I was a housewife but I had a very deep longing to help people. I asked them how I could do that and seeing my enthusiasm they took my number and contacted me a few days later.” She was provided training in digital tools and then provided digital infrastructure- a printer and a tablet. She has since been using the digital devices to serve the people in her village.
Hemalata has not just been serving people, she is also earning money by providing these services, she said “for people who are extremely poor I don’t charge them because I don’t think it’s right to do that. But for all others I charge a minimum fee for the services I provide photocopy, Aadhar updation, applications for government schemes or financial services. All this adds to an income of about 10,000 rupees per month. Working in this program has allowed me to become financially independent and now my family and the society actually give me all the support that I need for anything that I choose to do.”