Help Women in India Start Small Businesses

by Trickle Up Program
Srimati Sardar
Srimati Sardar

We've seen time and again how empowering one woman has a ripple effect on those around her--in particular the children for whom she can create a better future. Trickle Up's West Bengal program is helping women who live on less than $1 a day build sustainable livelihoods. With the increased income from their microenterprises, participants can improve their families' quality of life in truly significant ways, such as feeding their family three meals a day instead of two, buying shoes for their children and sheets to sleep on at night.

Srimati Sardar, pictured, recently told us that since her participation in the Trickle Up program, she's had more influence in family decision-making. As a result, her husband is less wasteful with his money, and they are now choosing to invest their money in their children's future. It is Srimati who decides how to use the money from her Trickle Up microenterprise raising goats, and she is focusing on ways to provide a sustainable and improved quality of life for her family by reinvesting in rice paddy cultivation and saving for her children's future.

For Srimati, Trickle Up's support gave her the opportunity to take her first steps out of poverty--for both herself and her family.

Rashida Bibi
Rashida Bibi

On October 15th of this year, the United Nations inaugurated the International Day of Rural Women to recognize "the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty."

At Trickle Up, we honor rural women and their role in leading their families on the first steps out of poverty. Many of the participants we target are from remote areas. Rashida Bibi's story is one example:

Surrounded by all of her kids - including her baby goats, Rachana, Sundari and Vudo - Rashida Bibi says, "Now we are in a much better situation, and don't have to starve. We can have better quantity and quality of food. Our children are going to school - and they are happy."

With support from Trickle Up, Rashida has taken remarkable steps out of the extreme poverty most people in her region endure. In West Bengal, where Rashida lives, the Ganges meets the Indian Ocean at the Sunderbans river delta. While the area boasts a wildlife sanctuary and the world's largest mangrove forest, poor villagers have little access to natural resources. Community needs - from sanitation to healthcare to literacy - remain largely unaddressed. Until recently, Rashida and her family skipped meals and often went to bed hungry.

One year after receiving Trickle Up seed capital, Rashida now manages a herd of nine goats, as well as a cow she shares with her neighbors, breeding them and selling their offspring for a profit. She also takes advantage of the monsoon season by cultivating fish for protein in a small pond. Through Trickle Up's training, Rashida learned to sign her name and count the money she earns. Now, her family also has access to a local health clinic and her children can attend school.

For women who grew up in remote areas and had few opportunities, the support Trickle Up provides means that they can help their families break cycles of poverty. Your support for our program in West Bengal is helping many other women like Rashida Bibi get their families started on the first steps out of poverty.

Why do women make up 70% of all poor people in the world? Trickle Up’s latest newsletter explains why many of our programs are geared towards women in places like West Bengal, India.

Click on the link below to read more about our initiatives and entrepreneur stories:


Although India has recently received media attention due to the IT boom and job outsourcing, growth and development have been largely confined to the south and west of the country. Trickle Up focuses its work in some of India’s poorest states in the east.

Our field office in Kolkata oversees the work of 19 local partner agencies, which help Trickle Up implement its program. Partners already provide other valuable services to the communities they serve, depending on their area of focus. One partner in Orissa, for example, helps hone the handicraft skills of tribal women, while a partner in Kolkata addresses child labor issues, helping families keep children in school.

In West Bengal, Trickle Up is piloting an exciting project with support from the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, a division of the World Bank. Working with a local organization, Trickle up will provide business and vocational training and seed capital grants to 300 entrepreneurs. With one-on-one staff support, entrepreneurs will deposit regularly in savings groups. After eighteen months to two years, they will be eligible to graduate to a microlending program to further expand their businesses.

A Trickle Up success story…

Before Jogendra Prasad and his wife received their Trickle Up grant, they leased and farmed their own land and found financially unsteady work as agricultural laborers. But with funds and training from Trickle Up they were able to open their own restaurant. They rented space near a transportation hub for $4.50, built a structure for $34, and bought a table and chairs. Jogendra’s wife taught him to cook, and he prepares the chicken and fried fish on order. From the beginning, the restaurant was a success.

Many of the customers are rickshaw and bus drivers whom the Prasads allow to eat on credit. Though the Prasads are illiterate, they have no trouble managing these accounts themselves - without losing any money. The two now make between $34 and $55 per month, and – having attended Trickle Up training sessions on how best to invest their profits – have recently purchased more tables and chairs for the restaurant so that they can accommodate more diners. The couple can now afford to send their son and daughter, who previously attended government institutions, to private school. And they are putting about $2.25 per month into savings.

The couple plans to use the next installment of their Trickle Up grant to buy utensils and more tables and chairs. “We are even considering taking out a loan – which we have never done before – to expand our business,” says Jogendra.


Trickle Up collaborates with grassroots organizations working in India’s poorest states, providing seed capital grants and training to individuals to help them start businesses.

With a field office in Kolkata, Trickle Up helped start or expand 1,834 businesses in 2006 (18,531 since 1979) in India alone. 97% of these entrepreneurs reported that their Trickle Up business became their main source of income. Our partner agencies are currently working to identify 2,500 more of the poorest individuals in the region.


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Organization Information

Trickle Up Program

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Trickle Up Program
Project Leader:
Janet Heisey
Program Officer for Asia
New York, New York United States

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