Here are the stories of 2 women beneficiaries of our income generating handicrafts project in a remote part of rural Rajasthan. They are just 2 out of 80 village women who are the target group for this project - a target we hope to increase as the project expands and moves to self sufficiency over the next 3 years:
- Bimal (see picture in attachment) joined the scheme in 2014 with no sewing skills at all, and was very nervous. Her husband was also discouraging. He did not want her to work but she persisted, and joined one of our centres, against his opposition. She found the handicrafts work very difficult at the start because she was shy about her lack of skills. She had to work hard to catch up. Now she can make bags, decorative panels, pouches and lots more, as required. With support she feels that she can turn her hand to making anything required through the project. More importantly she is bringing some income into her household. This has made all the difference to her husband’s attitude. She is now a valued and respected family member because she makes a useful input to the family budget.
In 2016 Bimal also joined one of our self help groups and pays R100 a month to the groups collective savings. This means she can borrow larger sums to meet family needs as required against those collective savings. She is able to repay this on a regular basis using some of her handicrafts income. Long term she says she knows the handicrafts project is the way forward for her, and wants more work as it becomes available under our plans for 2018-20 (see below)
- Pepita (see picture in attachment ) is one of the most successful workers in our village based handicrafts project. But it was hard for her to get started. Here is how she described her experience.
'I heard about your handicrafts project from another women who was already involved, and knew I wanted to be part of it. I asked the leader of a nearby handicrafts centre to come to my house so I could find out more, but my husband who had been drinking heavily tried to stop her coming in! He also said I had too much to do with looking after our 4 children, housework and farming activities. This made me very angry! I made sure she was able to join me for a first discusson. I also began to get up very early to complete all my household and family responsibilities, and allow time to do some handicrafts work myself. It took several months before I was able to get a small group of women to join me regularly at my home. We started working together making place mats, various kinds of bags, tassles, pouches and other items under the guidance of the project manager. This was only possible with the help of this project. Now, 3 years later I have a well equipped centre in my house, with table top sewing machines for 8 women. We are all earning from the sale of our products. Because I am earning my husband, my mother in law, and others in the household have accepted what I am doing through my handicrafts centre, and the centre occupies 1 room in the household compound.'
Pepita went on to say that her dream is that her handicrafts centre becomes an independent small industry engaging 10 women which provides regular income for all who work with her, with her as the head of the organisation. This matches the GEN / End Poverty goal of moving towards a more independent and self sustainable model for developing handicrafts work to bring income to village women in our area of operation - the Tijara Block in Alwar District in Rajasthan.
In early June, with GlobalGiving support, GEN and its Indian partner End Poverty recruited a marketing manager, Shweta Tripati (see picture in attachment), to join the project team initially for 6 months, but hopefully for longer in the expectation of her success with income generation from sales of the womens products. Her role is to boost market linkages and to increase the support given to current and new handicrafts workers by strengthening production, quality and design to more closely match market requirements. Underpinning this more focused and intensive approach to marketing a parallel plan is underway to ensure that by the end of 2018 we have 10 fully equipped craft centres in place at village level, each engaging 8-10 handicrafts workers who can meet a growing demand for saleable products that will increase project income and hence the income of participating women. Each centre led will be by an experienced and well trained 'sahayika' or centre manager, like Pepita, who is trained and supported to back up Shweta's marketing activities. So far our plans for a more independent handicrafts business in the future are progressing well, but additional financial support and advice would help to speed things up! Attachments: