A single mother’s journey to financial independence

“When my daughters see other children spend time with their dad, they miss their father. However, I can provide them with what others in the village cannot give to their children. And I’m proud of this.” 

In rural Kaibartapara, Assam, where traditional gender roles are deeply ingrained, Pranita, 32, defied conventions and took charge of her family – two daughters, Gargi, 12, and Bhagyashree, 10 – after her husband died.  

Pranita was suddenly thrust into the role of a single parent and had to become the sole provider for her daughters, even as she dealt with the grief of losing her partner. 

This was an uphill task in the traditional village where the family lived. Most women in Kaibartapara stay home and look after their children. The women never get any part in property and don’t own bank accounts. 

Young widows who lose their husbands face social ostracization and find it difficult to find footing in the community.  

In addition, the pressure to remarry often forces many women to choose husbands that don’t accept their children and the family breaks apart. Sometimes even when these children live with their mother’s new family, they never get the appropriate care. 

Rebuilding their lives 

The family of three now lives in a concrete house Pranita built from her savings. The girls go to school and their mother works in a beauty parlour in a nearby town. They spend their evenings together after the children are back from school and Pranita is back from the parlour.

“I was not taught financial independence as a girl, but I will make sure my daughters know how to be strong in the world, no matter their circumstances. I will support them and I teach them to be self-reliant. My daughters can choose whatever they want to be when they grow up, I will not force my will on them.” 

Pranita turned her life around by becoming financially independent.  

This was made possible after Pranita joined a women’s self-help group, who helped her open a bank account and gave her an incentive to become an entrepreneur.  

After consultations with the local facilitators, she decided to start with goat rearing as she could get a seed grant from SOS Children’s Villages and could stay at home looking after her daughters, who were young at this time.

She also got help to pay for classes to supplement her children’s education. 

After rearing goats for a few months, Pranita enrolled in training and also started raising pigs. She needed much more investment for the piggery as she had to build a sty for the hygiene and safety of the pigs. This is when she got a loan from her self-help group and began scaling up her farm.  

Very soon Pranita broke even and was making a profit. She also started saving for reinvestment in her business and her family’s future. 

After she saved enough, Pranita got trained as a beautician and started working in a nearby beauty parlour as well. This was a dream for her as she had always wanted to do this course but had never found the resources to afford it.  

She says it makes her feel confident that she has a place of work and interacting with other women in the parlour gives her strength and company. This also gave the family a diversified income so they didn’t have to rely on one stream of pay. 

Support from other women in her self-help group 

SOS Children’s Villages in India has so far created 1,248 self-help groups (SHG) across the country, helping women like Pranita take their first steps towards financial independence.  

These groups bring primary caregivers together for a common purpose and train them for financial independence.  

Additionally, these groups work as representatives for the interests of women not just with institutions like banks and government departments but within their families.  

There are often many trainings conducted on parenting and social support is provided to women to find agency so they can make their own and their families’ future better and more secure. 

Pranita’s journey, though tough, was not solitary. After joining the SHG, Pranita chalked out a plan for her family. The social support encouraged her to get over her shyness and build herself as an entrepreneur and the group helped her navigate any challenges she faced as a single-parent household. 

Inspiring the community 

Pranita’s life with financial stability has become an inspiration for not just women but also many men in the village.  

The family’s prosperity seen through their newly made concrete house and standard of living is much celebrated in the village.  

“Many people come to me and ask how much I earn and if they can earn too by raising a pig farm. They also have questions about the logistics of how to access markets or medicines for the farm. 

“I tell them everything I know and encourage the women to start rearing goats just for their pocket money so they can have their own savings away from their husbands and family expenses too.”

Through self-help groups and women’s collectives working across the world SOS Children’s Villages ensures that even single-parent families find a way to thrive.

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