In Toronto, pandemic turns South Asian women into entrepreneurs

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Over the past year, many South Asian parents have enrolled their children in online courses. “As a mother, I felt this was imperative for children and their mothers, especially those who work from home. With the needs of children and their parents in mind, we started our business, ”said Leena, founder of one of these organizations. For Anu, mother and computer scientist, these cultural courses allowed her only child to interact with other children of South Asian origin. As she says, “We’re glad Rahee isn’t as lonely as he was when the lockdown began.”

For South Asian mothers, especially professionals like Shobha who works as an accountant, weekend classes give them “a little time for me”. However, several women – including Shobha – felt that the increased time spent in front of a screen was a burden on the social lives of their children. As Anu says, they are “stuck at home all the time, even after school”.

Families working together

One type of business that has particularly flourished during the pandemic is home catering. In these businesses, while food preparation often remains the role of a woman, the responsibility for food delivery rests primarily with men. “I got the food handler certificate and started this business,” said Kiran, a woman who runs one of these businesses. “I do most of the cooking and my husband delivers. We also ask customers to come and pick up [the meals] from home, my husband takes care of all that.

The clientele includes single men as well as families. There is a growing demand for food preparation and delivery, especially among professional mothers who work from home.

The need for support

Despite some success, many South Asian women entrepreneurs have revealed they face financial hardship, especially during extended lockdown periods. For vendors who import and sell products, the disruption of air cargo delivery has resulted in lost revenue. “I have many customers who have asked me to put items on hold for them, but they didn’t pay me because I can’t ship products while on lockdown – the product and the money are all two stranded, ”said Prerna, a business analyst who recently launched her store from the basement of her townhouse in Brampton.

Regardless of the type of business, many entrepreneurs feared that they would be “physically and mentally exhausted from having to meet the growing demands of their home businesses while fulfilling gender family roles,” as Chaaya put it. , who runs a restaurant business in Mississauga. he. Nevertheless, most were also optimistic about the future, expressing a desire to continue their business after the pandemic.

South Asian women entrepreneurs will need action to overcome the complex economic and socio-cultural challenges they face. The Canadian government should recognize the efforts of these small business owners to be self-reliant and provide them with support. This could come in the form of low-interest loans, for example, or tax breaks for new online business owners – in other words, help that would allow these resilient women to thrive. as successful entrepreneurs.

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