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“Whenever I have some free time, after finishing my household work, I dedicate it now to fabric painting. Sometimes, when I finish with a batik piece, I notice with surprise that it is already past midnight,” shared Mrs. Suman Vishnu, mother of two small children, who was displaying her handmade products at the Fabric Painting Sale-Cum-Exhibition recently organized at the Amritapuri campus.
She was one of the over one thousand women that have so far been trained as part of a Women Empowerment Initiative, partly funded by the United Nation’s Democracy Fund (UNDEF).
The brainchild of AMMACHI Labs, the initiative particularly seeks to empower women from the socially and economically weaker sections in India. At the exhibition, the women proudly displayed their wares, which were sold out in no time.
“The sale-cum-exhibition itself is an element of the empowerment training,” explained Ms. Bhavani Bijlani, Director, AMMACHI Labs. “With our support, participants from 18 centers all over Kerala arranged the stalls here, on their own. They made decisions regarding the pricing and the product presentation. The expo also provided them an opportunity to interact with customers. In this way, skills needed to create one’s own business were acquired.”
All proceedings from the sales directly went to the women themselves.
“So many people bought my designs. The resulting income will give me a freedom I never had before”, observed Ms. Remya Vijith, a young married woman, and mother of a small boy. She has also now started a business at home. At the exhibition, her painted fabrics were all sold within an hour. The tasteful pastel color combinations greatly appealed to the buyers.
The empowerment initiative offers an innovative combination of Computerized Vocational Training and Life Enrichment Education. In this way, participants acquire skills to improve their life situations.
“The paintings you see here, are an expression of the women’s own confidence,” observed Ms. Bhavani.
Earlier, at the inaugural function, Swami Jnanamritananda Puri from the M. A. Math highlighted two different goals that were attained with the Women Empowerment Initiative.
“One is providing training in specific vocational skills, and the other one is more subtle. Women participating in the training also receive an opportunity to focus their minds on something different from their usual day-to-day duties and worries. They learn to divert their minds, through engaging in the fabric painting. In this way they get in touch with their inner potential.”
Liju K. Mahadevan, Operation Manager Ammachi Labs, explained the philosophy behind the Life Enrichment Education. “We don’t go out telling the woman what their problems are. Our approach is different. Once the participants of our vocational training courses become confident, we encourage them to start group discussions where they can share their personal as well as community-related worries. Depending on the concerns expressed, we try to facilitate a tailor-made support system, always envisioning their empowerment.”
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