Women’s Day Focus: Challenges Faced by Rural Women Entrepreneurs

Women's Day

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in India has been rapidly changing, in a good way. Over the last few years, India has been brimming with startups and unicorns. The success stories of different entrepreneurs and businesses have been primarily discussed.

Exploring the backstory of the success narratives, one could understand every entrepreneur’s common difficulties and obstacles. In addition, women entrepreneurs face more challenges. Despite several measures, the most affected people are the rural women entrepreneurs. This is because they have to overcome challenges from the entrepreneurial sector and rural ecosystem and also face gender barriers.

Lack of access to additional knowledge and equipment

The literacy and illiteracy results in rural areas impact women’s entrepreneurship. With good experience, a business can pick up at an incredible pace. The lack of experience is balanced with education, but it becomes a big challenge in rural areas.

Educating women has only been getting its due recognition in the past few years. However, educational issues are still at large in rural India. While they do get primary education, higher education for rural women is not accessible. In addition, they also do not get easy access to necessary equipment and technological support.

Less awareness about government programs

One could point out the increase in governmental and non-governmental programs. There are different programs like Atmanirbhar Navi and Mudra Yojana Scheme. In addition, there are also loan facilities like Bharathiya Mahila Bank Business Loan and Dena Shakti Scheme.

They support the entrepreneurial setup. However, the significant issue here is the lack of awareness about government programs. Since rural women are not much aware of the programs, they are not able to fight back the financial issues.

Social Construct

The social construct and patriarchal tradition are rather deep-rooted and solid in India. It has affected the business arena as well. There are defined and designed gender roles.

So, breaking these stereotypes has been complex and challenging for women, let alone rural women. But the good news is the dimensions are slowly changing, and women in urban and rural areas are fighting the stereotypes and building a new empire. 

Balancing family and business

India has had a history of male-centred business environments. However, gradually, women have begun to explore the field. Inevitably, the roles of men and women in the family and business worlds have become fluid.

But the change is relatively slow in rural areas. Family is seen more like an extension of women, and a huge responsibility falls on her. This way, there is a constant struggle between managing family and business. Meeting the family and business commitments simultaneously, with often little support from the family, is a major hindrance for rural women entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial Environment

The entrepreneurial environment demands great determination and dedication. Most families in rural areas have begun to realize the importance of women entrepreneurs. However, they are not entirely ready to share familial responsibilities.

They are restricted from going out and interacting. In addition, the limited mobility leaves them with little to no access to better investment and networking options. All these factors affect the entrepreneurial spirit, which is crucial to staying strong in this long business journey.

The Traditional Mindset

While the factors mentioned above are obstacles for women who have already ventured into business, a traditional mindset of family and society has restricted many rural women from entering the entrepreneurial world.

One of the basic concerns of the traditional mindset is gender roles. Women are expected to sit at home, do domestic chores, and take care of the kids. So they are not allowed to start businesses and, even when allowed, are asked to give up to look after the family.

Problems with Financial Assistance

A major roadblock to the entrepreneurial journey is financial problems. The lack of assistance and funding opportunities is a significant issue. In general, women are not allowed to enjoy financial freedom. It results in a low risk-bearing ability.

When it comes to funding, gender biases are very prominent. Especially women entrepreneurs in rural areas suffer the brunt of being stereotypically less credit-worthy. In addition, women in rural areas do not have many properties in their names, which restricts them from producing securities to apply for loans and private financing.

Reduced Social Network

The social and professional circle is relatively small for women entrepreneurs in rural India. A social and professional network will help entrepreneurs in production and marketing levels. However, lack of access to such spaces restricts their growth.

The avenues and opportunities are lost with no contact with like-minded people and potential investors. Not navigating through such formal and informal spaces, especially during this digital era, could be the biggest drawback in growing the business and building social capital.

Less Market Knowledge

The women-owned businesses are often restricted to a few sectors like beauty and fashion. Overcoming the challenges in the ecosystem with less women-friendly sectors is difficult. The male-centric system has also led women to work and operate in low profits and less revenue-generating sectors.

It limits their opportunity. Additionally, since many industries are male-centred, women have less access to networks, training, and mechanisms. It creates a general lack of exposure.

Changing Circumstances

All that being said, women entrepreneurs in rural areas are getting more access to training, education, and market knowledge recently, thanks to the internet and digital literacy. The success stories of women entrepreneurs would undoubtedly alter the existing biases and stereotypes. As a result, a nurturing entrepreneurial ecosystem is slowly being built. It will gradually become women-friendly and help them in fighting against the odds.


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