31-year-old Manjula, lives with her husband, two kids and in-laws in the Panruti block of Tamil Nadu. Her family, like many others in the village, depends on cashew processing for livelihood.

Manjula is someone CARE has helped grow through the Women Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises (WLSME) program. During the three-year-long program, CARE has not only aided Manjula in strengthening her skills, but also helped her build effective relationships with the local processors and farmers, as well as in gaining the support of her husband and in-laws for. This was necessary for her to take her work forward. She appreciates CARE for taking the initiative of talking to her family, without whose help and support, she says, it would not have been possible for her to take care of both her home and business simultaneously.

In a society where women are traditionally not expected to be involved in the procurement and marketing of cashews, Manjula is now a role model. In her 19hr long days, Manjula takes up cashew processing along with all other household chores. Currently she procures up to 24,000 kg of cashew nuts per year, with a processing value of Rs. 12,00,000 to Rs. 15,00,000. She also gives opportunities to her fellow women to engage in some of the cashew processing activities. Her wish is to see the women in her village become more involved in cashew procurement and processing. She keenly shares her success story with other women entrepreneurs, so as to encourage them to get involved in the procurement and be independent.

Manjula says that the motivation she received from CARE and her family is the prime reason behind her success. She is grateful to CARE for recognising her works and giving her the opportunity to be a leader for other SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). Motivated and guided by CARE, Manjula became one of the active ‘change leaders’ in the program.

V Murali