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Over 100 women from several districts in Kerala joined together on Saturday to hold the first ever Women Empowerment Project Expo for Hand Painted Crafts. The project, an initiative by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s AMMACHI Labs and the United Nations Democracy Fund, has been operating for several months now, and has successfully reached its second quarter milestone.
The women who participated in this expo are all recent graduates of the project’s innovative one-month vocational training course on Fabric Painting, that incorporates Computerized Vocational Education and Training (CVET), as well as a Life Enrichment Education (LEE) Curriculum that teaches leadership, decision-making, and community involvement skills.
The Women Empowerment project is the first of its kind to incorporate a vocational training with a Life Enrichment Educationgiven primarily via computers. Over the next 2 years, the UNDEF funded project will train and assist 3,000 women from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, to not only increase their earning potential through skilled job training, but also to empower themselves through hands-on and enlightening life skills education. This project allows women from all walks of life to find empowering job training, no matter caste, nationality, education, or region.
The inaugural event took place just after lunch with a distinguished panel of guests attending. Bhavani B, Project Director, offered the welcome address, followed by inspiring speeches by two of the distinguished guests: Swami Jnanamritananda Puri, Senior Disciple of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Founder of our parent organization, MA MATH) and supervisor for Amrita JSS and Mr. Ranganathan, Director of Amrita SREE, a self help group project under the MA MATH. Also in attendance were Dr. Ken Salisbury, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, and recognized as the Father of Haptics, as well as Dr. Margaret Minsky, Haptics Consultant and collaborator with MIT univeristy. Mr. Sudeep, Director of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham at the Amritapuri Campus, was also on the dais.
An award for Best Deployment Center was given out to the Meppadi center by Mr Sudeep, in recognition of the tremendous effort the students, facilitators, and district coordinators put in. This center, in particular, went over and beyond what was asked of them in several ways, from taking initiative on exploring new options for earning income, to stand out participation and high performance during the course. This award will be given quarterly to the centers in a hope to inspire higher performance and community pride.
With the conclusion of the speeches and pageantry, Swami Jnanamritananda Puri officially opened the expo by cutting the ribbon to the exhibition hall. It was difficult to tell who was more excited during the exhibit—the women selling their products or the customers eagerly picking through the selection, as the energy in the room was electric. Many customers walked home with several handicrafts, and all were full of praise for the hard work and exceptional quality of the products on display. Said one visitor from the US, “This is an inspiring exhibition to make visible what potential lies in us women—Yes we can!” She proudly showed off the hand-painted sari she had purchased for a loved one back home.
Such a successful event clearly demonstrates the ability of such training to bring out the inherent strength and abilities of women, allowing them to overcome any obstacles to achieve empowerment. Remani, one of the graduates from the course in Meppadi, Wayanad said it best, “When I started, I did not expect to be able to do much, but now, seeing our sales and reflecting on our experience here, I feel like I can do anything.” Her stall sold out of most of the products they brought with them, and hope to set up business deals with local shops to promote their crafts.
December 15, 2012