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Sharmili Mallick

Kendrapara/Ganjam: Traditionally, the life of women in rural India revolves around working in the fields or confined to household chores. Moreover, social responsibilities, unfavourable economic conditions and subjugation to a patriarchal order are the many challenges they face on a daily basis.

However, a group of Muslim women from Kendrapara district and Gitanjali Tripathy of Ganjam district are breaking these social and economic stereotypes and have emerged torchbearers of a transformation for the hundreds and thousands of their ilk.

The Muslim women group from Golarahat village under Derabish block in Kendrapara district used to make appliqués (chandua) and sell in the local market till 2017. However, the margin of profit was paltry.

However in 2019, these women were provided sewing machines, raw materials and money as loan under the Mission Shakti initiative of the State Government. They were also imparted training in making embroidery sarees, bed sheets, handkerchiefs, shawls, curtains and school bags.

Since then things started changing and there was no looking back. In the last three years, the group has been churning out finished products worth lakhs of rupees and even supplying materials to Delhi, Gujarat, Kerala and many other states in the country.

"We were earlier confined to houses and our contribution was zero towards the family. But now, thing are different. We are earning and have become self dependent," said a member of the Golarahat self-help group (SHG), Gilapsa Rani.

"Each member of the SHG are now earning between Rs 200 and 250 per day. We will keep on supporting them in every possible way," said Dilip Parida, Project Director of District Rural Development Agency (DRDA).

220 km down south in Ganjam district, Gitanjali Tripathy from Bhanjanagar once dreamt of earning a paltry Rs 50 to start a business to support her family. However, never ever she imagined one day she'd end up earning more than Rs 15,000 per month by making paper bags (thunga), badis and papads. Not only this, she has been helping other women of her village to become self-reliant. A realisation she never dreamt of.

Back in 2016, Gitanjali saved Rs 50 and knocked on many doors to collect newspapers to make bags. Seeing her determination, a kind-hearted person donated around 50 kilograms of newspaper to her which worked as a stepping stone for her enterprise.

She made paper bags with the donated newspapers and sold it those in shops and local markets. With the profit she earned, she bought more newspapers and gradually increased her production. She even started making badis and papads and sold in the markets.

Later, Gitanjali also taught making these items to her neighbours and other women in the village.
"I wake up every day at 4 am and finish making 'phula badi' by 7 am. Then I make papads till 12 pm. The rest of the day, we make paper bags. I also train other women of the village so that they can become economically independent ," said Gitanjali.

Golap Mallick, a student of Gitanjali said, "We used to make badis, papads at our homes but never thought of selling it in the market. After receiving training from Gitanjali 'Maa', we started selling our products in local markets and now we are able to earn money."

These women are the torch bearer of women empowerment and are an example for others. A slight lift from the State government and concerned district administration can go a long way in making them touch new heights.

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