Life had not treated Neetu kindly. Born in abject poverty in the village of Mridhan Purwa of Fatehpur cluster in Barabanki District of Uttar Pradesh, she had struggled all her life to keep her and her family’s body and soul together.

But when circumstances couldn’t get worse, it did.

Staying in a temporary plastic sheet shelter with her husband and her two children, daughter Shalini aged 10 and son Anmesh 9 aged nine, she worked as a laborer for 5-6 hours a day, intermittently earning paltry sums of money to supplement the household income. Meanwhile, her husband Sanjay Kumar who worked as a driver broke his leg and the family income almost dried up. The situation became worse during monsoons when the family stayed up nights removing water which came in from everywhere.

Then came the onslaught of Covid. Work stopped and so did the income. The family survived with the help of rations provided by the Government and CARE India.

This was the time she decided to change the course of her destiny. “I no longer wanted to do labor work for others. I wanted us to have a decent life and did not want my children to follow my path. I decided to open a Grocery shop on the main road near our house and start my own business”

Where there is a will there is a way. She dipped into their last savings to create a seed capital of Rs 5000 and also took a loan from the SHG group Khushi Sahayata Samooha which she was part of to buy wood to construct the shop.

CARE India with the support of MARS stepped in to provide her with the grocery inventory of around Rs 13000 to start the business, and also guided her in the skills needed to run a business successfully.

Then Neetu proudly shares “I have bought a refrigerator on EMI and have started to keep small bottles of water and cold drinks. As my business grows, I will keep larger bottles which will provide me a larger margin of profit”

Asked what her future plans are she confidently replied “I will enlarge my shop and make it of tin for sturdiness as well as for better protection from rain. I plan to increase the variety of goods from oils, detergents, masalas, condiments and may others”

There is no looking back for Neetu. As she expands her business, she will use some of her earnings to ensure that her children stay in school and complete their education.

“If I do well my children’s future change and I will also be able to support my community better. I will never give up” says Neetu lovingly embracing her children.

About the Programme: Mint farmers in India produce 80% of the world’s supply of mint and rely on the crop to provide household liquidity. In Uttar Pradesh, women mint farmers engaged in subsistence farming face a variety of socio-economic challenges, such as gender inequality, food insecurity, and financial illiteracy. In addition, these women mint farmers have also been affected significantly due to COVID-19. MARS has partnered with CARE India with the Shubh Mint project to support 4,755 women to overcome these challenges which improves their overall quality of life.

Posted by: Vandana Mishra

Location: Gosaiganj block, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

For more: Neetu Testimonial