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Sharmili Mallick

Rourkela: The women of Leprosy Colony in Rourkela Town who once used to survive by begging on temples and streets have now turned as trend setters for many. Their story of success and empowerment is now an inspiration for many underprivileged, self-dependent women of the society.

Women of the colony attribute their success to assistance from Rourkela Municipal Corporation and Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE) India NGO.

They say that around 16 women of the colony took special skill development training in 2018 and started mushroom cultivation. Even though the starting period was very tough for them but their hard work slowly paid off as they continued to make profits.

Now, not only mushroom farming, but the women are also successfully doing horticulture and compost formation by gathering domestic wastes and the self-employment has become their biggest asset of empowerment.

“If we keep on begging, our children will too take up begging, but if we grow and become self-independent, our children will follow us,” said a resident of Leprosy Colony, Ukiya Majhi.

Expressing happiness over the development of the women of the colony, head of CURE India NGO in Rourkela, Priyanka explains, “When one provides product-based services, his/her interaction with people will automatically develop. We chose to give them mushroom farming training, so that they can interact with society and market because that way they would be able them to take their own decisions which in turn would boost their confidence of living with dignity."

“The leprosy-hit women earlier depended on begging. However, now they have taken up mushroom farming to earn livelihood. They are also doing Vermicompost, floriculture and vegetable farming which have made them financially stable,” said Nodal CEO of RMC, Soubhagyabati Sahoo.

Just like the leprosy-hit women in Rourkela, the divyang members of Disability Mission Shakti at Raisunguda village under Salepur block of Cuttack district have also found a new lease of life. Despite their disability, the specially-abled women of the village are now inspiring many with their commendable efforts in successfully earning livelihood by making candles.

Some disabled women of the village formed a self help group (SHG) ten years back to create self employment opportunities for them. Now, they are earning over Rs 5,000 by making designer and colorful candles.

“I was suffering from severe financial crunch but after joining the SHG, I have started earning and can now not only bear my own expenditure but also support my children. We earn a profit of around Rs 5,000 every month,” said a member, Rina Behera.

President of the SHG, Snehalata Satpathy said, “Most of the members of the group are financially weak and cannot even pay for the medical treatment of their children. In order to help them, I offered to give them training on preparation of candles. I bought machines and raw materials from Cuttack and imparted them the training. Since then, they are making candles and living on their own.”

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