India recently set a national goal to end open defecation by 2019. To address the lack of toilets in the country, AMMACHI Labs began offering vocational courses in masonry, plumbing and electrical wiring to village women so they can construct, install and maintain toilets in their own communities. The women are learning about the importance of practicing proper hygiene for their personal health, thus empowering them to spread awareness and become ambassadors for change.
This training is now extending to reach rural villages all over India with the vision to address social challenges through technology. The most recent outreach program is a sanitation project that is offering vocational courses in masonry, plumbing and electrical wiring to village women in Bhoi Sahi, Odisha. Part of the training involves the use of technology through computerized training. They are learning to construct, install and maintain toilets in their own communities as well as learning about the importance of practicing proper hygiene for their personal health. This empowerment helps them to spread awareness and become ambassadors for change in their communities. AMMACHI Labs is planning to use this experience in Odisha to train communities in the benefits of sanitation and toilet building in other villages across India.
“Our initiative also gives women first-hand access to technology by delivering vocational education through computerized modules,” says a training officer. “The Bhoi Sahi women are thrilled to have acquired new
skills and learn through computers. Going forward, the women themselves will sustain the project, and use the new knowledge to improve their livelihoods.”
Computerized vocational training is planned to rollout in over 100 villages through the Amrita SeRVe project: an initiative to make villages self-reliant and provide a chance for entire communities to overcome poverty through education and technology. Recently five teams of from AMMACHI Labs staff traveled to 15 newly established training centers in villages across India. Altogether, they visited Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat, Marahrashtra, and Karnataka, in order to observe and document the impact of AMMACHI Labs’ work and to participate in Amrita SeRVe initiatives.
Economic empowerment is facilitated through the computerized vocational education and training (cVET) programs and social-democratic empowerment through a Life Enrichment Education (LEE). Results have shown that this is a powerful way to scale up skill development and respond to the needs of a community.
AMMACHI Labs has the goal to build 800 toilets across 20 villages in India to impact 3000 families and 30,000 people.
The Women Empowerment Project
The WE Project was funded jointly by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. During an 18-month period (2012-2014),the WE Project offered computerized Vocational Education and Training(cVET) and Life Enrichment Education (LEE), to women with low levels of literacy living in remote and impoverished communities, reaching 3,136 women in the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The women, many of whom had never used computers, stated that they felt an increase in self-worth after learning basic computing, in addition to the vocational trade they would ultimately take up. cVET along with LEE has enormous potential to catalyze the socio-economic development of marginalized groups. The LEE curriculum incorporates values of democracy and community participation into the cVET courses, with a focus on exercising decision-making and critical thinking skills of participants. As women are key to the economic empowerment of their communities, prioritizing spending on their families rather than themselves, the LEE curriculum contributes to the development of the entire community. The combination of cVET and LEE has not only helped students become qualified for employment but also participate more in their community and strengthen their capacity to make decisions at the individual, family, and community levels.
Unlike other training programs, the purpose of the LEE training is to encourage women to not only take charge of their own lives, but also become empowered to give back to society. The most promising students become trainers for the next batch of students, thus perpetuating a positive feedback loop of empowered women empowering others and creating change in the society They advanced economically and socially with an ability to earn an income, access resources, enjoy increased self-confidence, and participate in decisions that affect their lives and those of their families. The WE graduates collectively earned more than Rs. 20 lakhs,held six major product exhibitions, launched eight small businesses, obtained seven international product orders, and created 30 new Self-help Groups. Furthermore, the graduates have been champions for change, spearheading 73 community awareness activities ranging from alcohol awareness campaigns to environmental cleanups. Over 450 of these graduates went on to start over 36 micro-enterprise cooperative groups giving women artisans the tools and self-confidence to generate prosperity for their families and communities. Heartfelt Arts was started as an awareness campaign to promote their artistic skills and businesses. Visit heartfeltarts.com to learn more.
One of the many exciting developments following the Women Empowerment Project is the formal launch of a mentorship program to support the new micro enterprise cooperatives (SHGs) formed by project graduates. Inspired by the success of long-term, international volunteer workshops like the Secret Pillow Project and the Made with Love Italian cushions, AMMACHI Labs will soon be inviting successful women entrepreneurs from around the world to connect with a specific cooperative and spend a year mentoring the women through hands on workshops and skill training. The Meppadi cooperative has gained international success through the mentorship and connection with UK entreprenur Fritha Vincent and the Secret Pillow Project. The Secret Pillow Project shares the secrets of entrepreneurism with women worldwide and unfolds their power through making and selling. ” I have no words to express my happiness,” says Manjusha, an artisan from the Meppadi group, “I know I will never go to England, but Iam proud that something I have made with my name on it is being sold there.”
AMMACHI Labs celebrated the two-year culmination of our ambitious UN funded Women Empowerment (WE) Project. The project successfully trained more than 4,000 Indian women in employability skills and gave women artisans the tools to succeed. The two day event included dignitaries Ms. Lise Grande, Head of UN India and the Governor of Kerala Smt. Sheila Dikshit. Thousands of women artisans from all over India boldly ventured to Kerala for the celebration and handicraft expo. Ms. Grande said that the UN scours the world looking for the best projects: “Of all of the projects which the UN funds around the world, this is the one dearest to our heart.”
Education Initiatives through Fundamental and Life Enrichment Education
The Amrita Foundation Course AMMACHI Labs has also started a transformative course for women. The Amrita Foundation Course lays the groundwork for our students to imbibe and sustain the vocational skills that they have learned in the labs’ technical courses. Though valuable, the technical skills provided were not sustainable unless students had an understanding of values and basic knowledge. This course was designed to serve as a foundation from which they can build on for further skills.