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Source For Change: A Rural Women’s BPO

August 14, 2010

by Lindsay Eierman

For many in India, a daughter just represents expenses – the expenditure on a dowry and a wedding.  She is seen as a burden, and as just one more mouth to feed.  Even when married, though women bear the entire burden of domestic work, because they often do not work outside, they are regarded as unproductive members who do not add to the family’s cash income.  Therefore, while a son is seen as an “economic benefit,” having a daughter, in the words of a familiar proverb, “is like watering a neighbor’s garden.”

This perception of women holds particularly true in culturally conservative regions of rural India, such as the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. In small towns such as Bagar, girls still eat the leftovers after the men have finished their meal, and often get the least nutritious portions.  Women sit on the floor while men sit on chairs.  And many married women practice purdah, staying indoors, and veiling their faces, sometimes not revealing their faces even to other women. Women in such towns have no scope to find reprieve from the confinements of domestic life, to form friendships, or earn an income.

Recognizing the gender-based barriers for women in rural Rajasthani, in October 2007, a team of social entrepreneurs decided to find a way to provide women with economic opportunities. Through a joint initiative of Indicorps and the Grassroots Development Laboratory (a project sponsored by the Piramal Foundation in Bagar, Rajasthan), Source for Change was founded as India’s first all-women rural business process outsourcing organization. They founded Source for Change with the goals of empowering women with employment opportunities and provide them with a platform to be financially independent and achieve greater social standing while simultaneously providing quality outsourcing services at competitive prices to clients around the world.

Source for Change began as a group of 10 sari-clad women yearning to contribute to the development of their family and their village. While none of the women had ever seen a computer before, all of them were eager to learn and remained unfazed by the men who repeatedly questioned “can women really learn computers?” After a two month training, the women unequivocally proved their capacity to do much more than learn computer basics. SFC’s all-female associate team, now 45 women strong, has proven time and again that they are able to execute a variety of outsourcing services, including but not limited to: data entry, data standardization and cleaning, bill and invoice processing, image editing, application processing, scanning and verification, archival, web research and English and Hindi transcription. In 2008, Source for Change was selected as the number one provider of data-entry services amongst 21 vendors by Pratham India.

In a village where there is no platform for women to come together in any public space, Source for Change has offered an environment where women can develop not just professionally, but make friends and find a social outlet. The women have found in each other a camaraderie, to share their joys and sorrows, and their personal issues  over parathas and aachar. Source for Change Quality Assurance Manager Saroj Yogi, who was initially afraid to step outside of her home now considers the Source for Change office her “home outside of home.”

As they learn, problem-solve and socialize with one another, the women have developed from shy, reticent women into sharp and confident Business Process Associates. Their monthly incomes have empowered them with the ability to make more economic decisions in their households. Earlier Source for Change, associate Rajni Saini would rely on her husband to make all the economic and household decisions.  Whenever her husband fell ill, her father and brother would make decisions for her. However, since joining Source for Change, Rajni is more confident about her ability to independently manage her household expenses, and has a sense of autonomy she has not known before. Likewise, associate Shoba Sharma, who earlier had almost no say in her household decisions, recently was allowed to voice her opinions and convinced her family that her younger brother would have better educational opportunities in town rather than in their village.

Through their work in a team setting, the women have developed social and leadership skills. High performing associates have the opportunity to be promoted from Business Processing Associates to Quality Assurance Associates and Junior Manager positions. Alongside skills like basic training on computers, the women also receive soft skills and leadership training after which they take up operational responsibilities within the centre. This has had a surprising impact on the women’s personal lives. They are able to take personal decisions more confidently. The women have also become advocates for Source for Change, recruiting other town’s women for positions with the organization.

Source for Change is proud of the progress that has been made in Bagar, but has a vision to catalyze 100,000 jobs for women throughout India. By providing job opportunities and leadership positions for rural women, Source for Change hopes to empower women so they can ensure their own well being and that of their families.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lindsay Eierman is a Business Development Intern with Source for Change
Skype: Lindsay.Eierman

The 50 Million Missing supports all projects that empower women.  However, Source For Change is an independent organization and we take no responsibility for the information provided in this article.

Below we have some traditional images of women from Rajasthan from The 50 Million Missing’s flickr photo gallery.

photo credit: Dick Verton ©. All Rights Reserved.

photo credit: Fredcan ©. All Rights Reserved

photo credit: Lars-Gunnar Svärd. All Rights Reserved.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2010 4:07 am

    Especially encouraging to see this story come out of Rajasthan!

  2. August 17, 2010 5:50 am

    Very well written Lindsay keep up the good work.

    Rahul

  3. Kathy Eierman permalink
    August 21, 2010 9:03 pm

    Spending the summer in India was a life changing experience for you. It’s people like you that change the world one small step at a time.

  4. October 12, 2010 9:32 am

    Source for change

  5. Dan Carey permalink
    January 9, 2011 10:43 am

    A very nice article. It’s girl power!

    Dan Carey

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