Chevening Alumna Deepti Ameta has dedicated her career to supporting female entrepreneurship in India. She is Chief Operating Officer of Udyogini, an organisation that works with over 50,000 rural women across India to transform their lives through economic empowerment.
The word Udyogini translates as ‘woman entrepreneur’ and up to 80% of economically active women in India work in agriculture. Despite this, women collectively own only 9% of India’s rural land. Udyogini helps women living in rural areas to increase their agency by making sustainable changes to their business practices, such as skill development and collectivisation.
‘How can we build strong, peaceful and resilient societies if half of our population is disempowered?’
When Deepti turned 30, she realised that marriage with children was often the highest goal set for women in her community. She wanted to expand her horizons, so she applied to study for a master’s degree in the UK on a Chevening Award.
Deepti’s year spent studying at the University of Sussex allowed her to meet Cheveners from all over the world. She was blown away by the determination of her fellow scholars to fight against racial, social and economic injustices in their home countries.
‘Our societies are built unequal around the world. Structural inequality means that not everyone has the same opportunity to realise their full potential.’
When Deepti returned to India, she felt newly inspired to tackle gender inequality issues. Her work at Udyogini views women’s economic empowerment through the lens of climate justice. According to UN figures, 80% of people displaced by the climate crisis are women. Since gender and environmental issues are so closely interwoven, Deepti recognises that you can’t attempt to solve one issue without addressing the other.
In 2017, Deepti became honorary Joint Secretary of Chevening Alumni India (CAI). In 2018, she brought together India’s Chevening Alumni through CAI’s Gender Equality Campaign. Over 1000 Chevening Alumni participated by posting on social media, hosting gender equality workshops, and advocating for equal workplace conditions.
‘Chevening has provided me with friends, connections and opportunities that I never could have previously imagined.’
Deepti is also grateful for the Chevening Alumni Programme Fund, which the Chevening community in India has used to great effect on many occasions. She believes it gives alumni the opportunity to create platforms for great minds to rally around critical issues, both within India and around the world.
Deepti reflects that things have drastically changed for women since the start of her career twenty years ago. Women in India now can access safer public spaces, more opportunities for education, and better healthcare. She is proud of the progress that has been made towards improving women’s entrepreneurship and political participation. However, she realises there is still much work to be done.
‘I am hopeful we are on the right track as a country. My hope is that more women can be leaders. We can support women to support many more.’
This International Women’s Day, Deepti is launching her new campaign, #BornCapable, to encourage ordinary people across the globe to share their extraordinary stories.