A single box of honey was all it took to transform Anita Kushwaha, a petite teenager from a nondescript village in Bihar, into a successful entrepreneur
who countered gender bias to become a role model for millions of girls in India. Four-years ago, 17-year-old Anita boldly fought and convinced her parents not to marry her off. She had set her sights on something that no woman in her predominantly Dalit village of Pattiayasam had ever dreamed of doing — taking on the male profession of making honey.
Starting with two boxes, today Anita manages 100 beehives with 500 bees. With a jar of honey selling at Rs. 40 to Rs. 45, Anita manages to save around Rs. 1,00,000 per year. She has even bought her younger brother a motorcycle with the money she saved. “I used to observe other people of my village who kept bees and found it very fascinating. I thought to myself `If men can do then why can’t women do so’?” says Anita. With the Rs. 1,500 that she saved by giving tuitions to children she purchased a box containing a queen bee.
Anita’s mother was impressed by her daughter’s persistence and lent her Rs. 1000 for another box and so with two boxes of honeybees the determined Anita’s entrepreneurial career took off to a flying start. While parents Rekha and Janardhan toiled as labourers in the fields, Anita juggled her school homework and took care of her bees.
Anita says her schoolwork never suffered because the bees hardly required much maintenance. “They took care of themselves,” she said. She has inspired others in and around her village. Now many women and girls there are following her footsteps and harvesting bees. The bees have provided the teenager the opportunity to pursue her dream of going to college. She cycles from her village to the Mahant Darshan Das Mahila Mahavidyalaya in Muzaffarpur where she is pursuing her Bachelors in Arts.