Slum Dweller Turns Cafe Owner: The Incredible Story of Priyanka Sowame

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Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress | International Women's Day 2024 Special

Struggling to make both ends meet, Priyanka Sowame took a leap of faith and decided to board the train to attend the Youth Summit on Human Fraternity & Compassion in September last year. Little did she know what life had in store.

Residing in a nondescript slum in Pune, Priyanka - a mother of two - had been struggling hard to make both ends meet. Paying the rent and taking care of her two daughters was proving to be an uphill task. But a meeting with Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and his wife Sumedha Kailash changed it all.

A member of our Mahila Mandal in Pune, Priyanka had for long aspired to meet Kailash Satyarthi. "Meeting Shri Kailash Satyarthi and his wife at the Summit was a life-changing experience. It strengthened my resolve to start my own café, hoping to motivate more women to take risks and work towards a better life. Kailash ji’s life teaches us that whatever difficulties one may encounter in life, there is absolutely nothing stopping us," Priyanka says.

The meeting left an indelible impact on Priyanka and she started working on a plan to start the eatery of her dreams - DD Cafe.

Courtesy her association with Bal Mitra Mandal (BMM), she learnt about multiple government schemes and small business loans available to women entrepreneurs. "The Mahila Mandal group of the Bal Mitra Mandal provided me with a broader perspective and knowledge about my rights and financial assistance schemes, reinforcing my decision to have my own restaurant," she asserted.

She further said, “Mahila Mandal has been a great platform for women to transform their lives with community engagement and a problem-solving approach as it inculcated a room for knowledge-sharing for women to become self-reliant, restore their dignity, and help them become the decision-makers of the family.”

While living in a remote corner of Pune, Bhimnagar, a small colony in Vishrantwadi, Priyanka started facing acute financial challenges when her husband lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic. Undeterred, she began baking cakes at home to sustain her family. Despite the initial lack of support from in-laws, her husband stood by her, and they chose to live separately, sharing parenting responsibilities.

As lockdown restrictions eased, Priyanka worked outside while her husband took care of their two daughters. From filling up water early in the morning to taking care of and feeding their daughters, her husband made sure that Priyanka could go out and work. If that is not true companionship, then what else could be?

Standing tall in her own right, 30-year-old Priyanka is now all set to train and empower other women who visit our BMM centre in Bhimnagar. She guides them on skills needed for becoming an entrepreneur and apprises them of various government schemes that offer financial assistance to women to help them walk on the path of their own financial freedom.

Through DD Café, she weaves a tapestry of hope, resilience, and empowerment, inspiring young and old alike. In just three months, Priyanka’s café is generating around Rs 10,000 in profits monthly.

Women's workforce participation rate:

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