Facebook colours dreams of Belagavi women

Facebook colours dreams of Belagavi women

A sale hosted by the group.

It’s amazing to see how women folk manage to reinvent themselves every time. The camaraderie and spirit of sisterhood today is more visible in the online platform. And Belagavi is not far behind, the city is abuzz with Facebook groups that have literally become conversation starters.

BeLa (Belgaum Ladies), STREE and Utsav Sakhi are the Facebook groups started by enterprising women. A common thread that binds the three is that they are not-for-profit and have impacted a large number of women entrepreneurs, especially those who operate from houses.

Tejashree Hindalgekar Patil, a home baker, struggled for some years, but now she is steady with a stream of orders. Less than a year ago, she signed up on BeLa and started publicising her designer cakes. This year, she has had her hands full in her expanded kitchen with help at hand. 

Sheetal Chilami, one of the founders of BeLa, says that the idea was to help budding women entrepreneurs and not those who are already settled. Based on a similar concept, Gouree Deshpande Manjarekar launched STREE and ran Pankh, an NGO that worked with women from disadvantaged backgrounds to train them to manufacture uniforms and bags. Pankh also provides them free for students in select government schools. 

Dr Anupama Joshi, a promoter of Utsav Sakhi, started an eponymous event management company way back in 2006. Utsav Sakhi’s facebook group was active for the past eight years, but this year, it took a new turn to feature women operating from homes as well. What differentiates Utsav Sakhi from the other two groups is that it is open for women entrepreneurs from across the world. The biggest change brought by these groups is that women who stayed at home began thinking about starting something of their own. One such person is Rekha Kapse, who was in a quandary after facing some personal tragedies. She signed to BeLa and began publicising puran polis. Soon, she was inundated with orders. 

BeLa has already taken an offline route as well. In October, it organised its first BeLa bazaar coinciding with the Dasara and Diwali festivals. The three-day event had 80 stalls and saw a footfall of over 10,000 visitors. Gouree’s STREE group has heralded a new behavioural change among members who approached her for legal, medical, personal advice and appropriate guidance. Anupama’s ‘all women’ events have ensured women from conservative homes to freely express their feelings. These groups have had a major impact on women, both sellers and buyers. There have been instances when the really needy women have asked for jobs and someone visiting the group has been offered one. What amuses Gouree is when women seek personal suggestions, ask for help or give an opinion. “It’s a very warm feeling”, says Gouree. Anupama also has her fair share of both the warmth and ire of her members, who go out of their way to help her while some just do not understand practical aspects of an online forum.

Gouree and Anupama have demarcated each day in a week for a specific topic. So there’s parenting, motivation, gardening, online flea market, home décor and recipes, besides others. Anupama is especially proud of her Thursday Vichar Manch (Idea Forum) that turns into a platform for women to express themselves. Anupama aims at taking this group further to training women, and perhaps develop an online forum that helps women in business. Gouree has her eyes set on energy conservation and helping the needy through Pankh and STREE. Sheetal wants to expand her reach to Belagavi district. For once, women seem to have forgotten the world outside, men included!