The Tribal Journey
How often does one get the opportunity to visit and have a one on one conversation with the women living in villages and know about their journey in becoming independant? Perhaps rarely! These are women who have been educated by the joint efforts taken by strong associations that have worked towards uplifting them, motivating and boosting their moral, giving them the confidence to earn their own living. They have been trained and employed in making handmade imitation jewelry transforming them into a strong and independant women. I was honoured to be invited by the Gem And Jewelry Skill Council Of India (GJSCI) to meet these self-made women for which I travelled to Vikramgad (a small village, 115 kms from Mumbai in the interiors of Maharashtra, India) on the occasion of the birthday of the Tribal Minister, Vishnu ji Savra.
What Is Project Vanika?
On 6th March 2016, Project Vanika was initiated by the Gem and Jewellery Skill Council Of India GJSCI , Imitation Jewellery Manufacturers Association IJMA and Aasmant Foundation where they collectively took an initiative for training women who would be going through intensive artistic program which aims at promoting women entrepreneurship and encourages their heritage of making tribal jewelry.
In conversation with the Tribal Minister, Vishnu Ji Savra,
StylePrer (SP): How in your opinion has Project Vanika benefitted the women here?
Vishnu ji Savra: Project Vanika is a great initiative taken and implemented with the dedicated efforts of a strong team. It has helped the women here acquire employment close to their homes and become independant. It has further given them the opportunity to educate their children the way they dreamt of it and has set a brighter future for them.
In conversation with Mrs Nisha Tai Savra, Founder Aasmant Foundation,
StylePrer (SP): What made you initiate project Vanika?
Mrs Nisha Tai Savra (MNTS): While travelling to Vikramgad, you would have noticed that there are no industries here. The area is surrounded by mountains. The only source of income for the people living here is farming, which can be done for 3-4 months in a year. They are unemployed for the other 8 months and have no other source of income. Hence they migrate to close by towns or cities for odd jobs. They are unable to provide the desired education to their children and this was a big concern for us and we wanted to provide them with a stable job, a source of income that would sustain them through the year which would support them and their family without migrating.
SP: How did you convince the women here to start working?
MNTS: The women here have been working in the farms and would travel miles away to work on construction sites that could help them earn a living. Hence it wasn’t difficult to convince them for working. We rather worked on gaining their confidence to provide them a stable job in a secure environment that was close their home and would help them earn an income based on their creativity and the man hours they would put into delivering the finished product.
SP: How many villages are under Project Vanika and how many women are employed?
MNTS: As of now under Project Vanika more than 500 women are employed across 18 villages.
SP: How does this process work?
MNTS: In the current model of project Vanika, GJSCI is the project initiator and skill provider. Aasmant Foundation (NGO) helps with the human resource mobilisation and IJMA helps with providing the raw material for which the tribals process and assemble raw materials to make finished products. Once the design is taught by one of the skilled trainers from IJMA to our senior trainers, these senior trainers teach the women across different villages to make the product. These finished products are then given to the NGO for quality check and accounting. Aasmant Foundation gives the finished products to IJMA and on receiving their payment its distributed to the tribals.
SP: What kind of wages are paid to them?
MNTS: Designs that are simple to make have a lesser pay than designs that involve much more technical skills. Depending on the complexity of the work and their ability to deliver the finished product they are paid accordingly.
SP: Other than jewelry what products are made here?
MNTS: Other than jewelry they are skilled to make crowns for our deities, torans (decoration put at the main entrance of a house) and items that are used for fancy packaging.
SP: You have taken a fantastic initiative, is there any other way to help them?
MNTS: Women here need to be educated to take care of their health. We do make an initiative to educate them, however there are many families in the villages who need to understand the importance of maintaining a good health and hygiene. They need to be motivated to educate their children and send them to schools.
Why did I write this story?
If one would have read my previous posts written so far, they would probably be thinking why have I written this story? I feel honored, adore, look upto and am in support of the initiative and courage taken by the women under Aasmant Foundation who have educated themselves, earned a living and have become independant. Personally I am pro #MakeInIndia #SkillIndia an initiative taken by our Hon’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi and feel spreading awareness with these kind of stories could be one of my ways to give back to my country, India that has given me so much. Jai Hind!