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Government Grants: Free Money for Those Who Don't Mind Asking (Nicely)


There's a quiet hum of entrepreneurial energy in our bio-region. Many individuals, both women and men, are working tirelessly on their business ventures. Yet a surprising number face a common hurdle: a lack of awareness or difficulty accessing government schemes designed to support them. That's where AVAG steps in, acting as a bridge between our entrepreneurial community and the resources they need to thrive.

Ditch the Dishes, Embrace the Dividends Recently, we surveyed our women's groups and discovered over 400 members actively involved in small and medium businesses. This sparked the idea for an "Orientation to Entrepreneurs in the Bio-region" event.

The goal was simple: connect our business community with the resources available from state and central government schemes. With 175 participants – a mix of individuals already selling, trading, and producing, as well as those with creative business ideas – the event proved to be a resounding success.

Export Exposé: How to Sell Your Macrame to the Masses (Worldwide!) We invited key figures to shed light on the available support. Mr. Arul, General Manager of the District Industrial Center (DIC), provided a clear roadmap for starting a business, with a particular focus on empowering women to achieve independence and contribute to the national economy. He even distributed flyers outlining the various schemes and how to access them, including options with and without subsidies ranging from 25% to 35%.

Representatives from the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) added another crucial layer. They emphasised the importance of product distinctiveness, standardisation, branding, labelling, and packaging. Beyond offering guidance, they expressed a willingness to support our craftspeople by facilitating participation in state and national fairs, and even assisting with export registration.

A Nodal Point for Progress The event wasn't just informative; it fostered collaboration. AVAG was approached by participants with the request to become a nodal NGO for local craftspeople. This designation would grant a free or subsidised stall at exhibitions, providing direct access to buyers – a golden opportunity for our talented artisans.

The positive feedback was overwhelming. Craftspeople expressed immense value in the program, and women in small businesses requested entrepreneurship training. The need for skill development workshops was also highlighted, underscoring the comprehensive support system that's taking shape.

Empowering Women's Health This commitment to community well-being extends beyond business. Cancer awareness and screening programs are another crucial area where AVAG bridges the gap. Despite rising breast and cervical cancer rates, societal taboos often prevent open discussions. To combat this, we collaborated with government healthcare providers to offer free screenings during our Harvest Festival. Over 250 women benefited from this initiative, receiving checks from the Government Primary Health Center for cancer and other lifestyle diseases.

We further extended our reach by partnering with the Cancer Trust in Pondicherry. This interactive session provided a safe space for 75 women to ask questions and gain valuable knowledge. This enthusiastic response reaffirmed our commitment to spreading awareness and empowering women to take charge of their health.

The Power of Connection At AVAG, we believe in fostering connections – between individuals, businesses, and vital government resources. By bridging these gaps, we create a fertile ground for entrepreneurship to flourish and empower women to live healthier, more fulfilling lives. 


Written by Nadia Akcadurak

Small Wins, Big Dreams: AVAG's Women's Day Inspires Inclusion


Imagine a scene bursting with vibrant energy, a gathering of over 500 women and 50 children, all united by a common goal. It wasn't a bustling marketplace, but AVAG's heartwarming International Women's Day celebration. This year's theme, "Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress," struck a chord, and AVAG's initiative, "Inspire Inclusion," flourished into a remarkable event. 

Similar to a tiny seed tendered for growth, AVAGs women's day celebration aimed to nurture the potential within every woman: By weaving young girls and boys, ages 25 to 65, into the cultural fabric of the event, they dismantled traditional gender norms in the process. Ten-year-old Anjali, initially shy, transformed into a confident storyteller as she narrated a play about the importance of girls' education. Her grandfather, now a proud audience member, later confided that he'd never considered sending Anjali to school before. 

The dramas weren't sugar-coated presentations. They tackled difficult realities – child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and discrimination – but with a message of hope and empowerment. A powerful skit depicted a young woman bravely confronting an abusive husband. The audience held its breath, then erupted in thunderous applause as the woman walked away with newfound strength. Conversations crackled with energy afterwards, friends shared knowing glances, and a sense of solidarity filled the room. Many women confided in organisers about their own experiences, seeking support and guidance.

For many women, this event was a transformative experience. New women's groups, some experiencing their first public performance, courageously stepped out of their comfort zones and showcased their talents. A group of women from a remote village, initially hesitant, presented a vibrant folk dance that ignited the crowd. One member, Lakshmi, who had always been reluctant to speak up, later shared, "This is the first time I've felt truly seen and heard. We're going to practice even harder for next year!"

That sentiment echoed throughout the day. Even seasoned members of older women's groups, some active for over 16 years, confessed to feeling a newfound confidence after participating. The room buzzed with the contagious energy of inclusivity and empowerment. It was a space where women could be themselves, connect with others who understood their struggles, and forge a strong sense of belonging.

High attendance and enthusiastic participation spoke volumes about the event's success. Women arrived early, eager to delve into workshops on financial literacy and women's rights. They remained engaged throughout the day, sharing stories, laughter, and a newfound sense of purpose.

As a new staff member from a neighbouring village remarked, "This is an unforgettable day for me. I never expected to witness such a powerful transformation! I can see the change burning bright in these women's eyes."

AVAG's Women's Day celebration wasn't a fleeting moment; it was a seed sown for lasting progress. By investing in women, fostering inclusion, and providing a platform for their voices, AVAG is accelerating progress not just for these women, but for the entire ecosystem of their communities. As these empowered women return to their homes, they are ready to provide support to their daughters, educate their families, and build a brighter future for themselves and their communities, creating a ripple effect of positive change.


Written by Nadia Akcadurak

Transforming Banking for Women: A Collaborative Success Story

On the 27th of September, 2023, a collaborative effort between AVAG, a dedicated Bank Manager from India Bank,Vivek Maurya, and an official from the Block Development Office Mukya Sevika - Egalvalli came to fruition. This event served as a pivotal moment, offering a chance to bridge the banking disparities that women in the region have long endured through constructive dialogue and actionable change.

The predicament these women faced during bank transactions was far from ideal. Language barriers and technical glitches often transformed routine banking tasks into frustrating experiences.

Gajalakshmi, a valued member of the Thangamalar Women's Club, vividly recalls the issues raised at the seminar. "When we visit the bank for transactions," she begins, "we feel lost and confused by manual entry issues and the frequent malfunctioning of entry machines."
"What's more," Gajalakshmi adds, "several banks in the area primarily conduct business in Hindi, further adding to our difficulties."

This time, however, with Ms. Anbu Sironmani serving as their interpreter at the seminar, the women successfully transcended the language barrier when articulating their grievances to the new bank manager who pledged to address these problems.

Sharing her unique perspective, Jaya, a steadfast member of the Kulavillakku Women's Club adds, "Our passbook transactions often encountered roadblocks," she observes. “However, the recent agreement with the bank manager will now allow for assisted, convenient and speedy transactions to take place at AVAG itself.” This newfound flexibility has ignited the women’s hopes for smoother banking experiences.

Nadia, a committed member of the Sri Annay Women's Club, volunteered to be a part of this significant event. She astutely points out a pressing issue that affected many: "We were restricted to transactions of up to Rs. 49,000 only, even when dealing with multiple transactions or accounts." However, the interactive nature of this seminar has left a profound impact. Nadia reflects, "Having one-on-one interactions like these truly makes us feel heard."

Moreover, the Mukhya Sevika, Egavalli at the Block Development Office, took the opportunity to enlighten these women about various government schemes. This included insights into programs aimed at supporting girls' higher education, widow remarriage, and the children of single mothers. Gajalakshmi elucidates, "There is even a scheme designed to assist families with two female children." Armed with this knowledge, the representatives from each club are committed to disseminating this valuable information to their peers. "My daughters have already grown up, so I couldn't benefit from this scheme. However, now I plan to guide another member in my group, who has a newborn second female child, ensuring she avails of this opportunity."

In a gesture of goodwill, the Mukhya Sevika generously shared her contact details with the women, offering them a lifeline in times of difficulty. Jaya reflects, "I'm truly grateful to be here today. If I had been at home, I would have missed out on this valuable information.”

Buma Devi, representing the Tharampur Women's Club, confidently says, "Knowing that our queries will be heard and addressed is immensely reassuring." Her statement encapsulates the newfound sense of empowerment resonating among the women, further fueling their pursuit of financial inclusion and equitable treatment.

Finally, true to their mission, Gajalakshmi goes on to affirm the significance of AVAG and their belief systems, concluding with "We are warmly welcomed at AVAG, where equality is not just a promise but a practice.”


Written by Shevaughn Pimenta