A single mother in India defies traditional gender roles by becoming financially independent

Friday, May 17, 2024


“When my daughters see other children spend time with their dad, they miss their father. However, I feel I am a better father to my daughters than all the fathers in this village. I can provide them with what others in the village cannot give to their children. I am quite proud of this.” 


In the rural Kaibartapara, Assam, where traditional gender roles are deeply ingrained, Pranita, 32, defied conventions and took charge of her family of two daughters – Gargi, 12, and Bhagyashree, 10 - after her husband died. Pranita was suddenly thrust into the role of a single parent and had to become the provider for her daughters, even as she dealt with her grief of losing her partner. 


This was an uphill task in the traditional village where the family lived. Most women in Kaibartapara stay at home and look after their children. The women never get any part in property and don't have bank accounts. Young widows who lose their husbands face social ostracization and find it difficult to find footing in the community. The pressure to remarry often forces many women to choose husbands who don't accept their children, and hence, the family breaks apart. Sometimes, even when these children live with their mother’s new family, they never receive appropriate care. 


Rebuilding their life


The family of three now lives in a concrete house that Pranita built with her savings. The girls go to school, and their mother works at a beauty salon in a nearby town. They spend their evenings together after the children return from school and their mother returns from the parlour.  


“I was not taught financial independence as a girl, but I will make sure my daughters know how to be strong in the world, no matter how their circumstances turn out to be. I will support them, and I will teach my daughters how to be self-reliant. My daughters can choose whatever they want to be when they grow up; I will not force my will on them.”  


Pranita turned her life around by becoming financially independent. This happened after Pranita joined a women’s self-help group that helped her open a bank account and incentivized her to become an entrepreneur.  After consulting with the local facilitators, she started with goat rearing as she could get a seed grant from SOS Children’s Villages and stay at home looking after her young daughters. She also got help to pay for classes to supplement her children’s education. 


After rearing goats for a few months, Pranita enrolled in training and also started raising pigs. She needed to invest more in the piggery as she had to build a sty for the hygiene and safety of the pigs. This is when she got a loan from her self-help group to scale up her farm. Very soon, Pranita broke even and started making a profit. She saved to reinvest in her business and the family’s future. 


After she had saved enough, Pranita trained as a beautician and started working in a nearby beauty salon. This was a dream for her as she had always wanted to do this course but had never found the resources to afford it. She says it makes her feel confident that she has a place of work, and interacting with other women in the salon gives her strength and company. Also, this provided the family with a diversified income, so they didn’t have to rely on only one income stream. 


Support from women in her self-help group


SOS Children’s Villages India has created 1248 self-help groups across India that help women like Pranita take their first steps towards financial independence. These groups bring primary caregivers together to train on economic independence. Additionally, these groups work as representatives for the interests of the women, not just with institutions like banks and government departments but also within their families. Parenting trainings are often conducted, and much social support is provided to women to find agency to ensure a better and more secure future for themselves and their families. 


Although challenging, Pranita's journey was not solitary. After joining the group, Pranita developed a plan for her family. The social support encouraged her to overcome her shyness and become an entrepreneur. Additionally, the group helped Pranita navigate many challenges as a single parent in a female-headed household. 


Inspiring the community


With financial stability, Pranita’s life has inspired women and many men in the village. The family’s prosperity, seen through their newly made concrete house and standard of living, is much celebrated in the village. “Many people come to me and ask me how much I earn and if they can earn too by raising a pig farm. They also have questions about the logistics of how to access markets or medicines for the farm. I tell them everything I know and encourage the women to start rearing goats just for their pocket money so that they can have their own savings away from their husbands and family expenses too.” 


Pranita's start to financial self-dependence was difficult, as she came to it because of a family tragedy, but it doesn’t have to be for other women. Through self-help groups and women’s collectives working worldwide, SOS Children’s Villages ensures that even single-parent, female-headed families can thrive. 

Canadians wishing to help vulnerable children are encouraged to sponsor a child, sponsor an SOS Village or make a one-time donation. Your support will change the lives of orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children. Please help today.