Liza Chawla is a social entrepreneur who creates hope.
Running her organization, Chhoti si Asha, she is providing this intangible yet most valuable thing through a tangible source. She creates bags and home décor materials with women from the economically challenged sections of Chandigarh who find hope as they get economically empowered through the ‘Stitch a Living’ program. Standing at a valuation of Rs 25 lakh, Chhoti Si Asha supports 100 women today, amongst whom 15 women earn an average of Rs 10,000 per month. Chhoti Si Asha has also started manufacturing fashion accessories and apparel apart from bags, spreading its wings to take in more air to fuel the fire within.
But building an organization of that scale with workers who had to be infused with confidence and then training was an uphill task. Liza had returned to India after working for seven years as an IT professional in the Silicon Valley. Inspired by a friend’s charitable organization, she entered the development sector to bring about a difference in the street children’s lives of Chandigarh. She started with a bag full of biscuits, a few books and a laptop at the popular Sector 17 market in Chandigarh. What started as a small initiative to educate the street kids germinated over the years into Chhoti Si Asha. A vocational training workshop turned into a tailoring center with women pouring in from the nearby community to participate in the program.
Within no time, Liza and her ladies began producing cloth bags. After a slow start, when the bags generated interest she decided to create a brand. Liza, the social worker had to transform into a social entrepreneur. “The Walmart Women Entrepreneurship Development Program opened my eyes. It made me introspective and I realized that the purpose of my work was to provide meaningful employment and dignified labor to as many underserved women as I could. The success of my work should be measured by the multiplier effect and not by creating a brand,” said a confident Liza.
As Liza sits back to assess, she says the women who joined the training in the first batch are passing on the skill to many more in their community. These women may not be educated but they are bread earners of the family today and command equal respect from their family members. They have learned to resolve conflicts as they sit across the table and talk their hearts out in the circle of sharing. And it is Chhoti si Asha that they owe this transformation to, and Liza knows that as she transforms the life of one woman she is transforming a family. It is this effort that makes it a small organization with a big heart.
Liza Chawla is the recipient of Women Achiever Award by Punjab and Haryana Governor. Visit her website www.chhotisiasha.org.