Building self-worth and confidence is the key.
Many conversations with Uthara Narayanan, Co-founder at Buzz Women have helped me arrive at structures for facilitation design for women entrepreneurs. Here is an excerpt from the conversation as part of research for this book.
Uthara, you have been designing programs for women for so long, how is it different from creating programs for men?
I have not designed or created programs specifically for men, so I am not sure I would know much about the difference but I can talk about how we create it for women. Most women have self-doubt and second guess themselves. So in our programs I make sure the foundation is building self-worth and confidence. Along with exposure to knowledge and skills, the mindset shift is critical.
Alright, then what are the primary challenges in designing programs for women?
The distance from their home or workplace is a challenge. Women are not willing to carve time for themselves to upskill or build their capacity since they put everything and everyone else before their own needs. They have the responsibility of the house, kids, elder care, cooking, cleaning, sometimes animals at home, farm etc etc. It is tough for them to put these aside for a few hours or days to focus on coming to a program. This is why its critical that we go to their doorsteps and make it easy for them to come.
Women carry a lot of self-doubt, so the challenge is to design not just for the knowledge and skills but also to build confidence. Confidence to also gather support from their ecosystem which is resisting change. Its a tough ask from the women. We are asking them to go against the social fabric and carve a space for themselves. So a program for women has to address this bit more than for men.
While working with regional language women, I find language to be a challenge since a lot of capacity building concepts are available in English and much of the essence gets lost in translation. This is not just about women of course.
How does Buzz women create and run such programs for women entrepreneurs?
Buzz Women enables underserved women by making knowledge, skills and tools available at their doorsteps towards economic, social, personal and ecological empowerment. Our intervention starts with the Self Shakti training that trains women on the basics of financial management, business acumen and leadership development. This program is followed by a Community Anchor/ Gelathi (means a friend, in Kannada) who is selected democratically from among the women themselves on the second day of the Self Shakti Program. This Community Anchor goes through the Spoorthi (Inspiration) Fellowship that provides her with the skills to be a community leader and initiate problem solving initiatives in the community. The next stage is Buzz Green, which brings awareness on climate change and helps them take close to home action. In addition to this, every Volunteer Community Anchor happens to meet women in the villages who want to start businesses but want more insights and guidance to be able to become entrepreneurs and the Buzz Vyapar program that supports women to adopt and succeed in entrepreneurship as a mindset and a livelihood if they choose to do so.
How can program design be made sustainable and/ or scalable for women?
Build a cohort so that they can learn from and feed into each other even after the program ends. Always have a local leader/mentor/coach from among the community who will be the moral support. And like how you and I have mentors for the long term, women will need organisations like ours and us to be their mentors forever, even if we taper down the frequency of our interactions with them.
Uthara Narayanan's purpose in life is to lead people to find their own voice and achieve their dreams by unleashing their potential. She is currently experimenting with this through Buzz Women as the co-founder since 2012 (building human and social capital) and as the Director of Avantika Foundation (building civic muscle) since 2019.