Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The entrepreneur

Story #2 – Shamim

Two weeks ago, I sat in my aunt’s kitchen waiting for Shamim to take me to her house. An epitome of inspiration and yet one of the most humble women I have met, her energy was infectious. I watched her speak animatedly about the importance of a regular health check-up. She had returned from booking an appointment for her and her friend, even though her friend was hesitant. Fast forward 30 minutes and we were weaving through gullies to reach her home.

A two-story house with tiled floors, a tiny kitchen, cupboards lining the walls; the bedrooms were upstairs. It also had a bathroom with working sewage facilities; a rare occurrence where this house was located. All due to Shamim. Shamim is a cook at my aunt’s house and she lives in what is known as the slum area; a word I do not like using since it typecasts the people living there as someone desperate and needy. Instead I would like to say that many living here are extremely entrepreneurial. 

This is Shamim’s story.

Now separated from her husband, whom she had helped to get a job many years ago in Mumbai, Shamim is the champion of change in her household and with her community. Her husband has not spoken to her for 2 years. Yet, Shamim, a powerhouse of a woman, has managed the budget of the household, created a network of clients through referrals to homes and events, and is the manager of an informal venture capital fund that collects 5,000 Rs per month from each of 10 members and then donates a random member each month 50,000 Rs. This has helped them buy homes, fund the education of their children, and provide for many other necessities.

Shamim has studied until Grade 7 and was married at the age of 20. As she speaks about the power of education, she says that women need to know that they can be independent financially. She speaks about the desires and aspirations of young girls today and how they need to study, so they can work even after they are married; this is a significant issue in some families in India regardless of socioeconomic status.

She has advocated for the education of her two children, and her nephews and nieces. In their late teens and early 20s, they are pursuing different fields of service that will lead them to stable jobs. They speak very fondly of Shamim, her struggles, and her inspiration.

How can anyone not be inspired by a mother, a sister, and a confidante such as Shamim….

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