Excellence Awards for “Best Poor Women Entrepreneurs” in (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh States)

(On the occasion of the 4th  Death Anniversary of Legendary Social Worker & Co-operator Late. Padma Shri Dr. Jaya Arunachalam)

Chennai, 4th July 2023: The Excellence awards in Women Entrepreneurs honours thousands of poor women that have helped their organizations/ cooperatives survive the pandemic by utilizing its services with commitment. Women members who for 37 years from Rs.200 Rs.50,000 on an average loans today have been able to through the various holistic services aspire, educate girls as doctors or children as engineers.  This year 6 other ‘Excellence entrepreneur’ are being honoured.

World leaders have increasingly admired the gender and equity model; 6,00,000 members in 4 states of South India, 267 trades. 

This event of the Best Women Entrepreneur Women Excellence awards has been held for the 3rd year in the historic city of Chennai, Tamilnadu at the H.Q by the Working Women’s Forum and Indian Cooperative Network for Women at their H.Q. 

The energy was mushrooming on the campus welcoming, greeting, to tell their story and connect with all. Our legendary founder late Dr. Jaya Arunachalam we first paid tribute with the Awards in her name –  The fourth year anniversary after her death anniversary week. As she initiated, organized atomized, unregulated informal sector women into this mass movement in 4 Southern States of India. We started with a Workshop on climate change last week. 

The Working Women’s Forum (WWF) and the Indian Cooperative Network for Women Grassroots (ICNW) have been instrumental in supporting these women in their journey toward economic independence. Through financial inclusion, credit groups, continuous loaning, and counselling, WWF/ICNW has provided a lifeline to these women, enabling them to leverage their skills and start businesses in diverse sectors.

Recognizing and applauding the outstanding efforts of awardees, that have transformed their lives and become role models for others. From loom owners to carpenters, from animal husbandry to agricultural cultivation, from newspaper distributors alike.

The Excellence Awards for “Best Poor Women Entrepreneurs” serve as a symbol to the spirit and unwavering determination of these women who have overcome adversity and transformed their lives.  

Inspiring stories of the awardees (enclosed), remind us of the transformative power of entrepreneurship and financial empowerment. These women have not only overcome poverty but have also become agents of change in their communities. They have created employment opportunities, educated their children, and served as role models for other aspiring entrepreneurs.

Today the organizations clout and its rise to global leadership is wherein in 43 years we are key players on global high tables of policy with their voices and issues heard. Be it New York, Germany, Brussels, Japan. WWF-ICNW  stand represented on both the global unions/alliances of International Cooperative Movement today through election by several countries apex cooperative bodies. An extraordinary co incidence for the first time globally by this powerful mass womens cooperative union and a active global player on gender and cooperative issues i.e., the poor women from the informal sector.

Award Criteria

Quantitative Analysis:

The ICNW software unit picks up the financial analysis of the client of several decades through a technically criteria. These include parameters of repayment, no moratoriums request, no rescheduling, as well no default/ overdues. Also number of years as model client “over 9-20 years” within organisation loan amount/ cycle. The awardees are chosen from the analysis of all 13 branches of WWF-ICNW in South India. 

Qualitative Analysis:

This data is then scrutinised by the screening committee consisting of WWF office bearers/ staff and ICNW CEOs. Their criteria is the members loyalty to the values of the organisation; attendance of all trainings and brining in new members. Also this criteria includes the standing of members in the cooperative or the  community as Samaritans in terms of civic action such as with roads, electricity, water, schools, municipal authorities etc., further their help in solving gender violence problems, developing new supply chains etc., are also counted. 

Both the qualitative & quantitative aspects are taken up of all clients shortlisted from all the branches, who have never defaulted during their periods as client/ member or asked for moratoriums or with no overdues, participating in the share/ savings schemes as well as insurance (and all meetings, AGM’s, visitor meetings, field visits & all activities). 

One of the qualities of the WWF – ICNW is not to take failure as an answer in its work. On the whole, our new lessons have been about building financial, social, climate resilience and succeed within given constraints without lowering poor women’s standards. Marching towards half a century (43 years existence). 

WWF/ICNW’s digital financial literacy training is creating a change bringing technology to poor women workers during Covid-19 is also highlighted, as a tool for them to combat Covid-19 for financial inclusion. 

Creating wealth and growth from the grassroots by poor women and girls.

Today they have been able to avail through the various holistic services aspire, educate their children as doctors and engineers.  Also moving to employing other women, encouraging young entrepreneurs and are slowly moving from the informal into the pre-formal sector.  


  1. From Wage Earner to Loom Owner

Ms. Sundari Devaraj (54 years) is a member from ICNW Kancheepuram branch (K.P Nagar) member, educated upto 8th class. From extreme poverty, worked as a wage labourer in a loom, started with Rs. 1000 as loanee. Sundari with her first loan paid the membership and joined Silk Weavers Society which she could not do so as she had no cash resources. She obtained Rs.1000 loans to Rs.48,000/- in 25 years through ICNW loan cycles, she now owns 2 looms for weaving and has educated her children as graduates. From a rented house she has her own house. She helped bring WWF-ICNW 5 loanees groups to them. 

  1. Self employed Carpenter from Wage Earner

Ms. Boddu Ruthu (35 years) is a member from ICNW Narasapur branch, studied upto 10th class. Being a wage labourer, joined the forum, started with a loan of Rs.1000. In subsequent loans transformed as self employed carpenter, makes profit, educated her children, reinvested in business. Never defaulted or moratorium at all during Covid.

  1. Expanding from Small Animal Husbandry to Agriculture Cultivation

Ms. Pushpalatha Somasundaram (55 years) is a member from ICNW Adiramapattinam branch, being a agricultural wage labourer, facing extreme poverty. Inspired by other members of the forum, started with loan of Rs. 200 and received Rs. 50,000 in 20 years. Bought 10 goats, 2 cows, sold milk & curd alongwith coconut trading. Later took a piece of land for lease to cultivate. Educated her children as post graduates, helped her daughter in law become an entrepreneur with loans & progress in life. 

  1. From Wage Earning Newspaper Distribution to Medical Shop Owner

Ms. Devika Narendaran (53 years) is a member from ICNW Central Madras branch, initially helped her husband in newspaper business distributing, it working as a wage labourer. After joining the forum, she started with a Rs. 1000 as loan. Now she receives Rs. 1,00,000 in 20 years. Initiated with a cooldrink shop, then to garments now owns a medical shop. Educated her son as a M.Phil graduate and daughter to M.E post graduate. Helped WWF-ICNW by bringing 4 other groups to join & refused moratoriums even during disaster.

  1. Shilpa Nagaraj (43 years) member from ICNW Chennapatna, cooperative branch (2nd standard). Married she has 2 children. Her husband is an agricultural coolie or labourer. He died young and she joined the WWF-ICNW took first loan of Rs.1200 to grow vegetables she sold it and raised her family with the profit. Next loan of Rs.1200 to Rs.50,000 was obtained from the WWF-ICNW for 18 years and used that money to buy cows and ply milk business. Next she planted paddy in land and profited (saved income). Next she took a loan of Rs.50,000 and bought a 20 cent land out of it and farmed it alone (without a husband) and educated her children. She also provides labour to the neighbours next to her land.
  1. Investing on Children as Doctors & Physiotherapist from Wage Earner. 

Ms. Kavitha Sivasankar (38 years), is a member from ICNW South Madras branch, belongs to the fishermen community, struggled very much in her life. Started with a loan of Rs. 2000 from ICNW but now Rs.50,000 (last loan) in 20 years. Initiated with a small tiffen shop but now owns a big provision store. With the training she was imparted she diversified “idli dough” shop. Educated her daughters as a Doctor and Physiotherapist with the help of forum’s scholarship scheme. Respected as a good business woman in her area, admired by many other ICNW leaders, members & cooperators. 

About WWF

Indian Cooperative Network for Women – Working Women’s Forum (ICNW – WWF). It  have reached 600,000 women members across four states in South India (Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana) in 267 occupations. The voices of poor women are heard at global high tables with representation at for eg.: the World Farmers Organization (largest independent voice of farmers), and International Raiffeisen Union (oldest cooperative union) as board members, (the President ICNW/WWF, Dr.Nandini Azad is the only women to be elected to the board in 50 years). 

Our members are engaged in 267 occupations as diverse as fish, flower, and vegetable selling, idli (rice cake) and snack shop keeping, weaving, farming, poultry, lace making and hawking (service, manufacturing, production & trading center). They represent a convergence of class, caste, and gender that create very difficult social conditions of living for them. But our grassroots women have demonstrated that they can cope and recover from any Covid or disaster or poverty, gender equality through our ‘Gender and Equity’ model.

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