Lack of Financial Independence Among Women Forced me to Start Chesta NGO: Suman Adhikari

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“I want to give work to 1000 women in next one year,” says Suman Adhikari, CEO of Chesta NGO, and a resident of Kathgodam, who currently works in the Betalghat, Bhimtal, Haldwani blocks of Nainital district in Uttarakhand.

43-year-old Suman has been involved in the women issues for over two decades. After finishing a polytechnic diploma in 1997, she started working in NGO ATI on Swajal project, where apart from working on the potable drinking water, she worked on community development, sanitation and income generation through candle-making. While working, she pursued a masters in sociology from Kumaun University. Later, she worked with Action Aid and Prayas on the health of women in the mountains. 

The work took her from far-flung areas to cities. Everywhere she noticed that the women, irrespective of the money their family had or the places they lived in, lack independence. “I saw that even to travel, buy clothes or medicine, they were entirely dependent on the mercy of their husbands,” says Suman.

“In 2004, I decided to start Chesta at Jeolikote, where even the farming as an option is not available and rural to urban migration is high, to help women save some money and if possible earn.,” adds Suman. 

She initially thought to work with five SHGs, however within a month only, her NGO made 115 SHGs. In the initial years, she got some training from PRIA and NABARD to undergo training on these issues. 

As more women became part of it, they started making cushion cover, jute bag, cloth bag, Aepan paintings, table mat and runner, tray, coaster, bowl etc. to enhance the income of women. Today 4800 women are part of her SHGs. Around 500 of them are employed by Chesta to produce the things mentioned above, which are then supplied to various organisations to market. 

During one such meeting at Himjoli in 2018, where she had gone to show her cloth bags, she came to know about Udhyam, which was giving loan and mentorship to entrepreneurs. She immediately got registered and received Rs 2 lakhs after various rounds of screening. She has used the money to expand her work with 500 women involved in the income generation.

When asked about how did Udhyam helped Chesta; She says, “Apart from the money, the guidance provided during the course helped us in learning about how to do business, and the importance of accounting to develop long-term goals. The experts have also helped us in getting more orders. Now we think that we can escalate the work and employ a total of 1000 women in a year.”

“I want to ensure that all 4500 women working with us get some work to do. As everyone who is a part of the SHG wants to work from home so that they can earn more,” ends Suman on a positive note.