Many women from nondescript backward villages of Beawar in Rajasthan, who were too scared to think about their future a year ago, now sit on electric sewing machines at the Shree Stree Shakti Yojna Centre stitching designer dressesand bags as they greet each other in English while calculating the cost of the dresses they designed. From village non-entities to outspoken community members is becoming a reality for numerous women who now command respect as they become selfreliant andearn their livelihood, thanks to a “Shree Cement CSR Initiative” that is gaining momentum……
Two years ago, Rina Kathat, a 40-year-old poor widow from Jhunjharo Ka Badiya, Rajasthan, had no idea what to do with her life and her five-year-old son. On her own with nobody to support her, she stared at a hopeless future full of uncertainties. After her husband's death the world around her came crumbling down.
Today, Rina earns enough to support herself and ensure her son goes to a school by stitching dresses andmaking bags. Rina was lucky to come into contact with the “Shree Cement Samaj Seva Group” (Social Welfare Group). It reaches out to the poor and disadvantaged women villagers in backward areas and teach them stitching and bag making as a part of Shree Stree Shakti Yojna (SSSY) a CSR Initiative” of corporate behemoth Shree Cement Ltd.
The Shree Cement Samaj Seva Group introduced her to pursue an eight-month course in stitching and bag making. This not only helped her pick up the pieces of her life but also instilled in her the confidence to stand up for other poor women of her village.
Shree Stree Shakti Yojna is a pilot project from which over 120 women have already benefited from the project which has just entered into its second year. A fully equipped Shree SSSY centre has been set up at Beawar where the
women are imparted a four-month basic training followed by a four-month advanced training.
“The SSSY has been one of Shree Cement’s many successful CSR projects’. We started this Yojna as a pilot project by the CSR wing of Shree Cement in Beawar. This module has been very successful and benefited many women from the surrounding villages,” said Sanjay Mehta, President, Commercial, Shree Cement Ltd.
In the last fiscal, Shree Cement had spent over`19 crores in CSR activities in the areas of women empowerment, health, education, sustainable development, infrastructure building, energy saving, waste management and so on across India where the company’s plants are located.
Afsana, another woman from a nearby village in the Beawar region has a similar story to tell. “I am from a very poor family and I always wanted to give financial support to my parents. I was a dailylabourer and had neither the skills nor the choice of doing anything else. But a chance meeting with members of Shree Samaj Seva Group at the villageAnganwadiCentre changed my life.”
Marjina is another woman from another nearby backward village, who, like Rina and Afsana, shares her similar past. “I had never seen a sewing machine let alone having any idea about sewing. When I realized that my husband could not earn enough to pay the school fees of our son. Today, after joiningthe SSSY project I can stitch all kinds of dresses and also operate an advanced electric sewing machine. I earn between Rs7000an Rs.8000 a month,” says Marjina.
Recounting her experience atthe SSSY Centre in Beawar, Marjina says, “Earlier, I spoke only Marwari and felt shy to communicate with others. Thanks to the grooming ses-sions at the SSSY Centre, I can now speak in Hindi and a bit
of English as well. My son now goes to a local English medium school.”
The Shree Stree Shakti Yojna in the past two years has conducted outreach programmesand workshops such as “s\titching, cutting and bag making” through the variousAnganwadiCentres operating in different villages. Initially the response from the women to enrol in a four-month basic skill development workshop was lukewarm.
Things began to look up further when the women trainees of SSSYCentre bagged healthy orders from the local Ladies’ Club and Schools for making bags and dresses. Every Saturday at the SSSY Centre, there is a grooming session on confidence building, positive thinking, effective communication, skill development, basic accounting and product pricing. SSSY has also started providing transport for women who come from far flung areas. Each year, the SSSY Centre trains 240 women.