Shillong's Hashtag café sends strong message to all women entrepreneurs


By Aparmita Das and Marvin Kharsohnoh | SHILLONG:

While the United Nations has officially recognised March 8 as International Women's Day to celebrate womanhood, we must appreciate the achievements of women each day.

This year's theme is ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world' and the campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge.

Jagriti Nengnong and Vicky Kharkongor (The organisers)

On the occasion of International Women's Day (IWD), Hashtag café in Shillong came up with an initiative of supporting a few young female entrepreneurs who have just ventured into their new endeavours. The event called "Pre-women's Day Celebration" that took place on March 6 was led by Jagriti Nengnong and Vicky V. Kharkongor. The motive behind organising this event was to promote other women and give them a chance to showcase their talent.

Five budding entrepreneurs came together and displayed their products, sold them and had a fun-filled evening that involved interactions, music and food.

Hashtag Cafe

"Everyone is doing their job and why not show the creative side of theirs. It’s a good initiative, a good exposure rather for everyone," said Jagriti.

Stressing on this year's campaign theme, she said, “more than challenging, women should come together and prove themselves and give their best in everything they do".

TNT-The Northeast Today also spoke to the entrepreneurs and learned about their business and what they had to say about IWD.

Sally Kharbhih

Sally Kharbhih, the founder of MeAi Initiatives owns a home business at Laitkor. She specialises in making wooden jewellery and crafts.

She was a professional photographer for more than 10 years and described making crafts more of a passion.

Sally has also trained and employed other women, particularly women who have children and are supporting their family.

Sally Kharbhih arranging her crafts
Ibadashisha Mary Sawkmie

Ibadashisha Mary Sawkmie is the founder of Bahoni (meaning "made out of bamboo" in Assamese). She works with different rural communities in Northeast India and promotes their work on various platforms.

When asked about the plight of women in a male-dominated world, she said, "I have never been treated differently despite having brothers and a sister at home. Empowerment is all in your mindset".

Bahoni baskets

Also Read: TNT SPECIAL | Celebrating Women's Day with Northeast Women

Keralin Rajee

Keralin Rajee of Calla Rose specialises in satin fabricated work and makes dresses for women of all shapes and sizes. Keralin is also a yoga instructor and has immense love for fashion.

Her message for IWD: To men or women, we need to uplift each other making the world a better place to live in.

Calla Rose clothing
Merisha Toi

Merisha Toi owns 24 degrees scented candles which was started in November 2020. From the very name, it is clear that she is into the business that involves scented wax.

She had earlier worked as a cabin crew in Emirates but due to the pandemic, she was made redundant and had no other option but to come back to Shillong and start this business. She doesn't just make candles but wax melts or wax tabs as well.

Merisha's message for IWD: Do not lose hope because when I lost my job, I had actually given up on everything but eventually I realised that life is worthless without taking risks.

24 degrees scented candles

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Larisha Vaswani

Larisha Vaswani is the owner of Lash and Co. which is an exclusive Nail salon in Shillong.

She is also a make-up artist and runs several other businesses with her family. Her message was simple. She said, “take time to pamper and love and enjoy yourself because self-care is the best care.”

Meena Kharkongor

Meena Kharkongor, former Chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights also attended the event.

Speaking to TNT-The Northeast Today regarding International Women's Day, she said that she always tries to reach out to the women in the rural areas where there's not much of an education for the adults.

She also mentioned that it would be an encouragement if women from the village could get support from the government to come up and excel in different entrepreneurship fields, especially show growth with regards to education.

"There are many states in the country where education is also available to adults but here we do not have anything as such and this could be perhaps due to lack of information and awareness. So, I'd like to see women in our State to be educated and self-sustaining," Kharkongor added.

When asked about the campaign theme of this year's celebration, she said, "every day should be a challenge for women, they should be financially independent and have confidence in facing any challenge that is put before them and even men should support them not as their second half but as better half".

Phoebe Dale Nongrum

Phoebe Dale Nongrum, a professional race car driver who finished the third podium in the 23rd Jktyre National Racing Championship 2020 was felicitated at the event.

Speaking to TNT, she said, "If you desire something, you should work towards it. In sports, people generally try to stereotype genders but the truth is that behind the helmet, you’re not a man or a woman but just someone with your skills or talents".

Phoebe Dale Nongrum felicitated by Meena Kharkongor
Hashtag cafe

Speaking on the topic of gender inequality, one of the organisers, Vicky Kharkongor said, "I see no difference between men and women except for the physical aspect; we are at par when it comes to business, work or office- that there’s nothing that a man can do while a woman cannot".

Cecelia Wankhar

Cecelia Wankhar, also one of the organisers said, "We always associate women with not being able to work together or support each other but this event is an example that when women come together, great things can happen. This is one kind of platform that we have today..this is just one step..we hope that we could do this more in the days to come.”

Mementos for the participants

The organisers mentioned that they are looking forward to organising more such events and provide a platform, not just for entrepreneurs but any woman who is doing something different and productive.