Six women travel for nearly an hour six days a week to reach Siliguri from Pahargoomiah tea estate and train in making handicrafts. They can barely afford the bus fare, but the dream of empowerment keeps them going.
The women had been working longer hours the past month to ready their handmade products at an exhibition organised by Tagore Appreciation Society (TAS) at Ganges Art Gallery in Calcutta.
Fifty-odd distressed women from tea gardens around Siliguri, most of them below the poverty line and some of them abused, have been empowered under Project Sohag, an initiative of TAS.
“We are training around 50 women in tailoring, embroidery, jewellery-making and other handicrafts. Many of them work as house help and can train only after work. Some face family opposition. Yet their urge to be financially independent is strong,” said Rajosi Majumder, a superviser of the project, who was at the exhibition.
Project Sohag aims at empowering 100 tribal women by 2020 and organising them under a self-help group. Plans are afoot to open a store in the city.
“We hired 16 women aged 18 to 40 in the first phase for tailoring and jewellery-making. They would stitch garments from recycled and upcycled materials for a pay. The products were sold through social media and exhibitions. Since January, we have launched a six-month training programme supported by the state government,” said Sohini Gupta, the secretary of TAS.
Around 300 products, including handcrafted kurtas, dresses, make-up/pencil bags, jewellery, stoles and knick knacks, were on display at the gallery over the weekend.
The women are trained from noon to 4pm six days a week and given a stipend of Rs 100 a day to sustain themselves during this period.
“Many of these women are abandoned by their families. Some are victims of abuse. Sometimes parents force them to get married in between training. We need to counsel the girls and their parents regularly so that they can continue with the training,” said Debolina Dasgupta, another superviser.
The women are also given tips on business and design. “We try to interact with our clients through our Facebook page, to understand their preferences. We would like our empowered women to reach out an even broader clientele abroad,” Gupta added.
Source: The Telegraph