Traidcraft’s ‘Going Green’ project works with artisans and poor textile workers in Northern India. Pragya Majumder meets one of the women who is building a sustainable business to support her family’s income.
The sewing machine is Waloo Devi’s pride and joy in her otherwise furnitureless house. It holds centre stage, positioned at the best window in the room where natural light filters in beautifully. As well as her home, this is also where she runs her business – and business is good. In fact, in one and half years of involvement with Traidcraft’s ’Going Green’ project, Waloo Devi has come a long way.
In 2015, when Going Green started canvassing door-to-door for interested people to join the project, Waloo registered immediately. Based in the tribal settlement of Dhaura, near Udaipur in the Indian State of Rajasthan, she had no access to any savings of her own and was dependent on her husband for every small expenditure. Waloo’s husband is a mason and the household’s monthly income is between 8000 and 9000 rupees (€110 – €123). Her family comprises of four sons, four daughters–in–law and nine grandchildren.
Together with her neighbours, Waloo Devi joined Maha Kali Swayam Sahyata Samooh – a local self-help group, supported by Traidcraft, of women with the collective spirit to create green enterprise. The women were determined to break the cycle of indebtedness and poverty and came together to discuss what possible skills they could acquire, deciding to focus on eco-friendly products hand-made with textile waste. These would include bags and accessories.
They started making small savings. Initially, they started their group with individual monthly savings of Rs.50 (€0,70). However, from April 2016 they have started saving Rs. 100 each (€1,40). They now have 10 members in the group and their joint savings now stand at Rs.7,000 (€97). The group meets every first day of the month to discuss business issues, deposit monthly savings and document the proceedings and resolutions made in the meeting.
The various self-help groups in the Udaipur area are being federating into a Community Development Organisation of micro and small-scale enterprises, supporting 1600 women involved in green enterprise.
Waloo Devi has taken a loan to purchase her sewing machine so that she can stitch cloth bags for shops in her local area. The Community Development Organisation helps her with the raw materials and with marketing. Waloo had no prior knowledge of sewing but, at the age of 50, she has gained the confidence to learn a new skill to support her family and become a small entrepreneur in her own right, with the support of collective strength. Her modest income has given her more of a say in family matters. Next time I meet her I am sure she will have more changes to share and I am so looking forward to it.
About 62,500 people are benefiting from ‘Going Green’, which is part of the EU’s SWITCH-Asia programme.
Pragya Majumder is a Project Manager with Traidcraft Exchange’s India team.