I was born in 1985 to Mrs Janaki and Mr Sarat Kumar Chand. In the village, life was so difficult that my father decided to migrate to the city in search of work during the early ‘80s.

City life was equally challenging. My father rented a small house in a slum and looked for work. After years of struggle, he found a temporary job in the State Police Department. With the meager salary he earned, he looked after his parents and us.

Throughout my childhood, we fought to fulfill our most basic needs. I grew up longing to do something to lessen my father’s financial burden. Despite our tiny income, I was sent to school and I studied hard. During my teens, I tutored younger children to complement our income. But even that wasn't enough.

Finally, at the age of 24, I managed to get a job with a Micro-Finance agency. The salary was low, but consistent; I felt good earning money for my family. One morning the head of the agency ran away with the whole collection, which was about 30 million Rupees (approx. AU$576,900). My team members and I were left to face the wrath of the villagers. On moral grounds, it was decided that we would refund the villagers their money; my share came to 300,000 Rupees (approx. AU$5,700). In desperation, I almost ended my life. I was saved by my parents, they sold our land in the village and added all their savings to raise the amount. By that time, I was totally broken in heart and spirit.

In 2013, I came across UMBC, they taught ways to earn livelihoods with dignity and confidence. Within a week, I joined as a community mobiliser and was mentored to become a Business Provider Outsourcing Executive. My confidence grew and I was soon managing several projects.
Owing to my newly found confidence, I could say ‘no’ to an arranged marriage and instead married a man of my choice, even though he was from a different caste. Breaking traditions would have been impossible for the old Minakhi; but with my newly found confidence and financial independence I could make this decision and today I am happily married with a baby girl.

I started realising that I could do much more than I believed I could. I started being addressed as “Didi” (elder sister) in my community and girls of all ages began to come to me for all kinds of advice and guidance, from financial to domestic.

All the training at UMBC steered me into the direction of self-employment. I learned about business accounting, record keeping, debt repayment, asset management, staff monitoring and reporting.

True to my training, at one point of time, I wanted to start my own micro-business. I took a bank loan and bought an auto-rickshaw. My husband and I managed the business and in just 2 years, repaid the loan. We then bought a second auto-rickshaw. This time, I brought my younger brother into the business. In just 3 short years, my family and I have become economically self-sufficient and well respected in our community.