When a woman perseveres in the face of adversity and demonstrates that she can rise above her circumstances and lead, it paves the way for other women towards empowerment and leadership. Today, when the concept of leadership is still seen through the gender lens. Women, even at the grassroots level, are proving that they can mobilise communities and resources to drive change and emerge as tomorrow’s leaders.
CII Foundation Woman Exemplar Kamal Kumbhar from Osmanabad District, Maharashtra and Woman Exemplar Ushaben Vasava from the Narmada district, Gujarat are two such grassroots leaders who are tirelessly enabling thousands of other women to earn a better living. The CII Foundation recognized them and has been constantly working with them to increase their leadership cadre and amplify their work on other platforms like the Nari Shakti Puraskar.
On International Women’s Day this March, Kamal and Ushaben received the prestigious Nari Shakti Puraskar from President Ram Nath Kovind at a glittering ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi. The Government of India awards women and institutions that have rendered remarkable service towards empowering women, especially women from vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of society. The Nari Shakti Puraskar is India’s highest civilian honour for women.
Kamal Kumbhar received the CII Foundation Woman Exemplar Award in 2017 in the Micro-enterprise category. She was awarded for building the rural entrepreneurship eco-system for women from the drought-hit region of Osmanabad in Maharashtra. Kamal founded Kamal Poultry and Ekta Sakhi Producer Company after escaping poverty and a failed marriage. Previously working as a daily wage labourer, she toiled hard to own six enterprises and become a renowned business coach for over 5,000 rural women entrepreneurs to start their microbusinesses.
A local poultry industry pioneer, she has helped 3000 women establish thriving poultry farms, doubling their household incomes. Harnessing the power of the information provided to her through the CII Foundation trainings and mentoring activities, Kamal has strengthened her work further. She has also been recognized as a Champion of Change under the Women’s day campaign led by Google India.
Ushaben Vasava was recognised as a CII Foundation Woman Exemplar in 2019. Being an intimidated housewife, Ushaben gradually gathered the courage to protest against the brewing of mahua, a country liquor, within her home. Ushaben organically evolved to become a prominent leader at a Block level SHG federation, working with the tribal farmers of the Narmada District in Gujarat.
She founded the Sree Nav Jeevan Adivasi Mahila Vikas Manch after realising that women’s livelihood security is linked to their control over land assets. She is working with over 2500 tribal women of the region helping them with organic farming techniques, one acre farming models and ensuring land rights for women. Ushaben is an example of a tribal woman who emerged from the shadows to play a leading role in public life, inspiring thousands of other women.
The CII Foundation, through its Woman Exemplar Program, has been identifying and recognizing such indomitable grassroots women leaders and building their capacity through several initiatives to amplify the social impact of their work. The foundation furthers their work activities and keeps scanning the ecosystem for collaborative opportunities and awards.
The foundation continues to power the successes of those who have continuously defeated biases, broken stereotypes and braved the curveballs of patriarchy to drive social transformation for India’s development.