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Two friends helping women help themselves [Nagpur] [Times of India]
[March 10, 2014]

Two friends helping women help themselves [Nagpur] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) NAGPUR: In an exemplary effort to move from corporate to community, two friends Vishakha Rao Jathar and Sharmishta Gandhi, have utilized their corporate marketing skills to change lives of many rural women.

The duo set up and NGO Aroha in 2004 to provide sustained means of livelihood to rural women. "We worked as a cluster development agency in Gadchiroli to help tribal women with pricing, packaging and standardization of hand pounded rice they were preparing as a means of livelihood," says Jathar. This exposed them to the requirements of rural women and how handicapped the latter were in getting their products recognized.

Next was a project in Bhandara to develop marketing strategies for bamboo furniture and artefacts. "We worked in association with another NGO and got 300 bamboo artisans involved in this project. We got their products recognized at all India level," says Gandhi. By far their most successful effort was with women in Wardha in association with DRDA. "To engage the women in gainful activities, we identified 18 food products like sargunde, moongwadi, turmeric powder and helped them to package and market it under the brand name Wardhani," she adds.

The two marketing strategists were quick to realize that in absence of any traditional art in this region, there was a need to develop skills through training. "We introduced cluster development programme wherein master trainers would train village women in certain skills," says Jathar. Ari, zardozi hand embroidery and tailoring were identified and at a centre set up in Kalmeshwar training was given by master trainers called from Nagpur. "We have so far provided training to 400 women at our centre in Kalmeshwar where women come from neighbouring villages too," says Jathar.

There is constant activity at the centre where women are bent over sewing machines, embroidery frames and cutting tables. Handbags, mobile covers and pouches are made here under the brand name Rang Resha. Seasonal stitching of school uniforms is also undertaken. "I want to master this craft so that I can have a steady income of Rs7,000 per month," says Kavita Gawande whose husband is a farmer. "This is such a respectable work and can find me a source of income anytime," she feels. Sheetal Patil has already finished her six months training in tailoring and now also takes up stitching jobs at home. "I just want an additional income of Rs4,000 that I hope to make through stitching," she adds.

"We get orders of various items that are executed by many who work here. They are able to make around Rs2000 per month through this," says Jathar. Aroha has formed joint liability groups of women in villages also. At Gondkhairi, a group of five women are making steady Rs3000 per month by stitching bags. "We started as a savings group wherein we would save Rs50 from our husbands' income. A six month training into banking and group dynamics along with embroidery and stitching was given to us. Today we are saving from our own income," says a proud Usha Mehre flaunting the colourful bags and cloth lampshades made by her group.

(c) 2014 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited

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