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Claflin Receives Grant to Support Women Entrepreneurs in the United States and India

Claflin University was awarded a grant for nearly $75,000 to conduct research and develop training to enhance women’s entrepreneurship in family-owned businesses. The Partnership 2020: Leveraging US-India Cooperation in Higher Education to Harness Economic Opportunities and Innovation grant is a subaward from the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Afghanistan Studies. The grant creates a partnership between Claflin and the Visva-Bharati University, a public research institution based in West Bengal, India. Faculty from both institutions will conduct collaborative research, provide training, and promote women’s entrepreneurship during the one-year agreement.

Claflin faculty participating in the project are Dr. Harpal Grewal, professor of economics; Dr. Abdullah Khan, associate professor of economics; Dr. Peggy Ratliff, professor of English; and Dr. Mitali Wong, chair and professor of English.  Grewal and Wong are the grant’s co-principal investigators.

The Visva-Bharati University team will be led by Dr. Amit Hazra, professor and head of the Department of Lifelong Learning and Extension, Institute of Rural Reconstruction. Visva-Bharati was founded in 1921 by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore who named it “Santiniketan, abode of peace.” In 1951, it became a central university. Subsequently, the Indian Parliament declared it as an “Institution of National Importance”.

Claflin researchers say they are looking forward to working with small business owners in India and South Carolina to enhance their business and management skills. According to Grewal, they are exploring the possibility of establishing training programs for small family-based businesses owned by women in Orangeburg, Bamberg, Calhoun, Barnwell, and Hampton counties.

“We are especially excited about the potential for local public and private economic development,” said Grewal.  “This project is an opportunity for community-based organizations to develop family-based capacity building and training programs for women-owned small and micro enterprises.”

In South Carolina, the researchers will target women entrepreneurs in food catering, bakeries, quilt and jewelry makers, seamstress, residential cleaning and other small family-owned businesses for their program. Wong said that many of these women-owned businesses are home-based enterprises. They often rely on and employ family members.

“The pattern is very similar to the women who will receive support from this project in India,” she said. “The training offered through the grant is expected to provide tangible impacts on job creation and entrepreneurship. The project will also expand academic research on entrepreneurship among faculty and students in both institutions.”

Consultants from the University of Calcutta, which partnered with Claflin from 2015-19 on a project that was funded by the US-India 21st Century Knowledge Initiative Program, will lend their support to the program.  That partnership provided training for women artisans and artists in eco-friendly microbusiness development in West Bengal, India.

“Having observed the success of Claflin’s previous collaborative project with Calcutta University, I am hoping to bring our knowledge to provide similar training for our region’s small family-based businesses,” Wong said.

“Women who work in family-based businesses experience inequity in many countries. Training women in our local communities to become successful in business is consistent with Claflin’s commitment to social justice in a rapidly changing America.”

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