Well-known social entrepreneur Prema Gopalan from Pune passes away

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Swayam Shikshan Prayog has helped nearly 300,000 rural women become entrepreneurs

Swayam Shikshan Prayog has helped nearly 300,000 rural women become entrepreneurs

Well-known social entrepreneur Prema Gopalan, a tireless campaigner for rural women’s leadership, died Tuesday morning in Pune at the age of 66.

As the Founder and Executive Director of the NGO Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), Ms. Gopalan’s organization, which spans seven states in India, to date has helped nearly 300,000 rural women develop new identities as entrepreneurs, farmers and community leaders.

Founded in 1998 by Ms. Gopalan and activist and academic Sheela Patel, the SSP provides volunteer services to help women from rural India’s hinterland (and Maharashtra in particular) break gender stereotypes and play a vital role in the adoption of sustainable farming models .

The SSP model includes four ventures: a federated network of 5,000 SHGs, a resilience fund for women-led businesses, a rural school of entrepreneurship and leadership for women, and a market aggregator that provides warehousing, branding, marketing and distribution services for the latter offers mile of women-led businesses.

Through Ms. Gopalan’s efforts, the SSP has created a strong support network for women leaders called ” sakhis in rural areas and provides incubation and business development services to equip them with critical skills needed to exercise their leadership roles in governance, financial management, climate resilient agriculture, entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods.

Today, at least 65,000 women practice organic farming through the SSP, putting nutritious food on the table for their families while regenerating the soil. Around 45,000 female entrepreneurs run successful companies and bring additional income to their families. Many have taken part in elections to local bodies and have been elected to civic bodies.

Ms. Gopalan’s inner belief in women’s leadership has garnered worldwide interest and recognition.

In her three-decade career, she has been celebrated with a number of national and international awards. Most recently, she received the Women Transforming India Award 2021 – NITI Aayog’s flagship initiative, which honors women entrepreneurs bringing about transformative change in India.

In recognition of her entrepreneurial vision, she was recognized as Social Entrepreneur of the Year in October 2018 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship – the sister organization of the World Economic Forum and the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation. She was also a recipient of the Parkhe Foundation’s Adarsha Mata Puraskar and the Roddenberry Foundation’s +1Global Fund in recognition of impactful work during the COVID-19 pandemic in adversely affected communities.

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