Success Stories

SEDAB Enterprises – Women’s Profiles

 Angeli Devi – Advanced Tailoring 1st Unit

Anjalidevi (in the unit)

Angeli Devi is 24 years old takes a 30minute bus ride from her home in Pulichapalam to work at the Advanced Tailoring unit in Irumbai. Her training course for Advanced Tailoring began in November 2012 to January 2013.  Her husband Raja is a painting contractor and she has one son who is 7years old. She has been with the unit since her 2012 initial training. Angeli shares, “I was lucky enough to get a 12th standard education.” Angeli comes from a family of five children. Being one of five daughters, she explains, is a terrible burden, especially as her father committed suicide when she was eight. “Two of my sisters did the household work, my mother struggled to make an income, usually only about Rs. 30 per day. We managed to study a little each – two of my sisters only completed 5th, 7th and 8th standard, we are all lucky to be all married now.”

 Angeli continues, “When our training started we were more, but now only five of us are left for different reasons. I feel this work is good because before I used to sit at home, here I can do more without being useless.” Angeli’s income fluctuates, but she says she is earning about Rs. 3000 per month. She used to tailor a little at home before, but now she is happy to have more constant and regular orders and a promise in salary. “It is easier to work in a group. Also, my husband has no regular painting work in the rainy season so my income is important.” She shares that she has learnt more complicated stitching skills, such as making kurtas and shirts and pants, not just in familiar designs but in funny, ‘modern’ models. She shares that she is happy with her work and her enterprise group saying that many women are beginning to change their minds and gain confidence. “Traditionally women should stay at home, but here there is lots of training, and we need more training! I want to become more famous in tailoring and I want to train others.” Angeli speaks about her hopes and dreams timidly, but as she talks she begins to smile wider and says “I always wanted to be a nurse, you know? But anyways, this is good, because we can plan together for ourselves and if we work hard for ourselves then we earn the benefits.”

Although Angeli is optimistic about her work and potential for her enterprise to grow, she shares that the challenges are many. “You know, a tamarind tree fell on my mother’s house this year and so we have to also find a way to fix that.”

Kalai selvi – Advanced Tailoring 1st Unit

Kalaiselvi is 29 years old and was part of the first batch for the Advanced Tailoring enterprise. She has studied till the 10th grade and then stayed at home for one year in Pulichapalam which is about 15 kilometers from her work unit. Her husband is 38 years old and works as a secretary to the Panchayat of her village. She has three brothers who studied till the 10th, 12th and one is currently studying his undergraduate. Two of her brothers are working in different companies. “I was married at 17, I know it is young, but that’s just how it happened. I was then already doing some basic stitching at home.” On joining the training she says she learnt many more new skills and new patterns.

“First we all thought to come together and make our enterprise, but many women left for many different reasons. It was dull, and it was difficult. But now we are doing alright again, we are only two people, but we are doing well.” Kalaiselvi shares that if she went back home, which she does not want to do any longer, she would spend her day not doing much. “Usually when I am at home I do the housework or sleep to pass time so it is more useful to be here.” Her daughter is 4 years old and her son is 9 years old and she is happy that they are both studying in English medium schools. “My husband earns about Rs. 6000 to 8,000 a month. I earn about Rs.4,500 a month, so our combined income is good.” She hopes her daughter will become a collector and her son a doctor, but she adds “As long as there are no problems at home I am happy. My husband used to drink but not anymore, so things are alright.”

The wonderful thing about Kalaiselvi’s story is that she has gone from being a trainee to become a trainer. “I have given training to the 5th batch and I am very happy. I teach them using my experience and give them tips from my on experience.” She is now learning new patterns and is creating samples. “I want to climb higher, then there is joy in my heart through learning. If I learn patterns better, then it would be good.” She suggests that she and others may benefit from learning embroidery better. “Constantly leanring new patterns and techniques is good, then it does not become dull and we can keep improving.”

E. Daivani – Advanced Tailoring 2nd Unit
Deivanai-unit2 Advanced Tailoring

 Daivani is a 35 year old and has three siblings. She has participated in the second batch training for Advanced Tailoring from January to March 2013. Her brother is 33 years old and has studied till the 10th standard; her sisters are 31 and 29 and have studies till the 10th and 8th standard.  “My husband is an Auto-driver, we both only studied till the 10th standard, and I was married when I was 22 and have one son and three daughters. I just stayed at home before this work.”  She shares that she enjoyed studying and wanted to study more, but that because she lived between Puducherry and Tamilnadu, and she held a Tamilnadu ration card, that she did not have access to Puducherry schools and that all others schools were too far. “Because the transport got too expensive, my parents stopped sending me to school.” Daivani has a son who is 12 and a daughter who is 11years old to support.

 Daivani joined the tailoring training as she thought the work may be useful and was happy to join in a team to do work together, instead of being alone at home. “I am happy to get away from home. We are eight members in our unit, others left for reasons – like they had to go back and do household work.” She shares her enthusiasm but when asked about possible improvements in her work sphere she begins to talk enthusiastically.

  “I am very happy with the work and income, but it is not easy to pay back the loans. Piece rates are a bit low. Some units don’t send us regular orders. If I had to share with you my hope it would be that the piece rates would be more, and that we would get more training so that we can work better and take more orders.” Daivani continues to share how she feels that the training was not enough and that she would like the trainer to visit more often or to have another course to learn more skills. “I want to do this work independently, we all want that, but first we need to learn more.”

 Rathna – Advanced Tailoring 3rd Unit
Rathna (in the unit)

Rathna is 38years old and comes to work every morning, if she can by bus, or if not she hitchhikes from her village in Perpattayam. She shares that she was in a women’s self help group before this enterprise work and that is how she heard about this opportunity. She shares that she understands why we are doing this work “Many left after our first training because there are so many reasons that keep women from working. I was part of the club (SHG) for 15 years now.”

Rathna’s explains that she only got a 5th standard education because siblings are all older than her. She has a brother that is 41, another brother 45 and a sister that is 49. One brother collects used materials to re-sell and another is a carpenter. Having such a low education she explains that she could only find work in a match-box factory for some years, but otherwise spent her time at home. Rathna’s childhood was not easy; primarily she explains is because her father was an alcoholic. “You can only imagine the beatings and the money disappearing,” she remembers, “but also the landlord getting upset and trying to kick us out of our home.” She is grateful that her husband has not turned to the drink as well.

“I married my husband at 19, he is a carpenter, but he does not get work regularly and also he has knee pain so it is difficult for him to go to work. He is encouraging and supports my work as I have to help with school fees, household and all.”  Rathna has a daughter of 15 and a son of 17, and they are struggling to support their education. Rathna shares that she hopes for more orders for tailoring and that she hopes her son will study aeronautics and for her daughter to work in a bank.

“I don’t want to complain about the work here, but I get hip-pain from sitting and stitching for too long. We called our unit Alayam, because it means ‘temple’, so our workspace should also be a sacred space. We all put effort because that combined effort is how we earn.” “I hope to work to bring up my income. I would like to be able to buy a new sari-jacket without having to borrow money from others, simple reasons like that.” She also shares that paying back loans is a priority in their lives right now and that she feels her enterprise group needs more support and more new projects in order to gain stability of income. “If we understand and do, then we can do it all, we can be able to support our families much more than we do right now.”

Avaniyammal – Amirtha Herbal Medicine

P.Avaniyammal

 Avaniyammal is 30years old and has been part of a group of 35 women trained for the preparation and production of herbal medicine. “My mother died from a bus accident when I was 15years old, and my father is deaf. I have two younger brothers.” Avaniyammal shares that she did not want to get married because she felt responsible towards taking care of her brothers and father, but that she did eventually marry after long negotiations to persuade the groom’s family to also take in her youngest brother as well.  “My husband is a farmer, also now I have two kids, my son is 14 and my daughter is 11 years old.”

 Avaniyammal is also eager to talk about her training, which took place from February to March 2013, she shares that her experience was good because they got to travel and take health surveys in the villages to understand what illnesses exist and then survey the medicinal plants of the area and learn traditional recipes to prepare remedies. “The work we are doing is good and useful and the feedback we are getting from people we sell to, even our families. It is encouraging to get this good feedback.”

 Avaniyammal works with the sales aspects for Amirtha. She explains that her task is to work within the Vandipalayam village and slowly more further to identify markets in other villages. “We have to take the initiative ourselves; it is our own decision which results in our income.” They visit schools and sell to teachers and to talk about the benefits of their natural medicine, and also distribute plants for people’s kitchen gardens. “My hope is that we can sell more and more – so that we can take more income from our profit total, something like Rs. 150 per day would be very useful.” The members of the enterprise have contributed only a little towards the initial costs, so the group decided to invest a part of their earnings towards these initial costs as a contribution from their side. This, Avaniyamal says, is not easy. She says that they have no cycle or other means of transport surrounding the Vandipalayam village, so they often have to first walk far out to be able to catch a bus. “This is not so convenient, as we cannot visit many places in one day, and we often come back home late.” Avaniyammal hopes to earn more in order to put get kids to study and says “We need to further develop the work to further develop our life.”

 Selvi – Amirtha Herbal Medicine

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 Selvi is 34 years old and works for the last two years with the sales aspects of Amirtha. Her parents used to work as farmers, but her father died 20years ago and now she supports her mother who is at home. “I was the only child, and got to study only till the 8th standard. I also did farming work to help the family before,” explains Selvi. Her husband is 37 and is also a farmer. Selvi shares “It is difficult here because to get work I have to go out of Vandipalayam and there is no real work in this village.” So when the enterprise opportunity came, Selvi was happy to join.

She explains how the training taught her about being a Sidha doctor and how to use plants and herbs for curing people with different remedies. She says “We are bringing back this knowledge that is good for the people and it makes us feel good while it also supports our families.” She is also able to slowly start paying back loans and hopes to continue to put her children through an education. “I wanted my kids to have good habits and learn from an English medium school, but that was too expensive so we stopped and put the girl in another school.”

 Selvi explains how her husband has hurt his knees so his work is irregular. “I am very relieved that I can trust in the income from this work, my husband’s work is less reliable.” She also explains the details of various medicines they prepare and how it has helped her treat her own husband’s pains from home, rather than spending a lot of trips to the hospital where medicines were more expensive. “We did get an injection from the hospital, but the rest I can do myself now at home, for my husband and even for the little kids.”  She took the training course for herbal medicines from February to March 2013. Selvi now plays a central role in her family, supporting her children, husband and mother.

 Sasikala – Meera Herbal Food

 Sasikala is 31 years old and was born to farmers and has one brother who is now 30 years old. “I regret is very much, but I was only able to study until the 3rd standard, so I cannot write.” Sasikala shares how she would love to have studied more because she is very self-conscious about how she speaks as she feels she cannot communicate as well as others can. Sasikala says she feels she was oblivious to the problems at home as a child “You know when you are small, you don’t notice things like that,” but adds “it’s only after marriage that things began to get difficult.” Her husband also works in farming, and she shares that it is difficult with his income to pay for even small expenses. “Sometimes he won’t go for work as the work is not so regular and he is not always called.”

 Having joined the enterprise Sasikala feels that the training in herbs was very good and she is very pleased with what she has learnt. Sasikala took the training course for about a month in July 2014. She shares that “I am happy that these people have come to help us with making this work happen. We are getting good feedback about the things we sell, that it is helping with appetite problems and cold and many problems. It is good to get this feedback from people.” Sasikala suggests that “We need to grow the enterprise with more energy, this will give us more income. If we do it as if it is our own, then only it will succeed and grow.” Sasikala is not sure how to take steps to encourage this change and keeps saying that she is not able to because of her lack of education. Yet, even with her low self esteem her dreams for her children are loud, confident and clear, “There are no difficult things at work, yet all is difficult in its own way. But we must work hard to earn. I didn’t study, so I hope my children will study. So I will work hard, as this is my hope.”

 Lakshmi – Meera Herbal Food

 Lakshmi is now 55 years old and lives in Vandipalayam. She was the only girl and had three brothers. “I did not go to school, neither did my husband who is a farmer. My daughters are 25 and 35 years old and are both married farmers, and they both studied till the 10th grade.” Lakshmi’s husband is old and she says he is often ill so he cannot do much. He spends his days at home while she goes out to work. His income used to support the family, but now Lakshmi’s does. Lakshmi participated in about a month long training course to learn about herbal properties and their potential uses in food.

 She explains, “I am getting older, so to pluck the ingredients for the mixtures from here and there, and walk the distances is not so easy anymore. But I need to feed the family. We had times we had little or no food, so we do not want that again.” The problem Lakshmi says is that “We had no idea how to make money,” she says, “but now we are getting told how we can do it, which is good.” Lakshmi remembers her village when she was younger, and says that going to school was not normal, majority were farmers living with very little. Lakshmi explains that farming work is not easy, income is irregular and cannot be easily predicted as the crop yield and prices vary according to many different factors. Although Lakshmi says she is happy working, she is worried about the near future as she is aware of her aging body. “The income I get is enough to feed us both and pay for his treatments, but what will we rely on when I cannot work anymore?” Lakshmi expresses her content in finding a group to work with and that she is eager to push forward to ensure the success of the enterprise, so that she hopes, it may support her in the future when the times get more difficult.

 Muthalagi – Nadukuppam Spirulina

Muthalagi is 30 years old and works at the Nadukuppam spirulina production site. She is one of five children. Both her sisters, who are 33 and 37 years old now, studied till the 12th standard and were married. Her brothers are 35 and 20 years old and have both studied till the 10th and 9th standard. Her brothers work in Bangalore, one as a carpenter and the other in construction. She says that she is the only one of her siblings left in the village, “They never come to visit me, and they do not support me, they have their own families now.” Muthalagi’s father was a cowherd and mother would find occasional work as help on construction sites. She’s been married since she was 17 years old, to a plumber. “I was only able to study till the 11th grade, my family could not afford the 12th so I was married.” Being one of five siblings, Muthalagi shares that she was very lucky to be supported by her teacher to study and buy school materials and clothes. “If it were not for the help of my teacher, I would not have been able to get even that education as my family could not send all the girls to school.”

Muthalagi works to provide an additional income, next to her husband’s income of about Rs. 100 per day, to support her children. Her daughters are in the  4th and 6th standard, and her son is in the 2nd standard. “I used to spend my days at home, but with two girls, and a little boy, it is good that I work as school fees are high.” Muthalagi shares that she works for her children’s benefit and that is her only focus “I have no dreams, my dreams are for my children.” She expresses her happiness in working with spirulina, she says that she does not want to move anywhere else because it is a nice place to work, and it provides a steady promise of income to support her children. The greatest challenge she sees within herself is that she has a lack of self-confidence. “I don’t know how to talk in meetings, I freeze, even talking to you for this interview is difficult, I am always scared.” Muthalagi hopes to improve her communication skills so that she can play a more important role in her spirulina team but she asks for help in learning better ‘speaking skills.’ “When I was young studying was easy and I liked it, so I got support to study. My hope was to learn English, but I never did, so my hope is the same for my children. But my income is not enough to put them in an English school.

Amulu – Nadukuppam Spirulina

Amulu is only 18 years old and is from Nadukuppam, working at the Nadukuppam Spirulina site. “I have two brothers, one is 20years old and is in an engineering college, the other is 17 years old and is studying his 12th standard. I have a sister that is 22 and she only completed her 10th standard. I only got to study till the 10th standard, so I am here now.” After completing her 10th, Amulu went to work at a garment factory where she earned Rs. 10 per shirt she stitched for export.

When talking about her difficulties, Amulu was persistent in sharing that she had no difficulties as a child and still has no difficulties at home or at work. “The training was easy and the work with spirulina is fun. The work with stitching shirts was also alright, but I prefer Spirulina, I don’t want to go back by bus everyday to work in the factory, because it is much nicer here.” She shares that she used to have to travel much further for her work in the garment industry. Now that this spirulina work is in her own village Amulu finds it much easier to get to work. She says the work here is much better because she likes her group and because there is a lot of space to do the work. “I prefer Spirulina also because it helps all of us and gives us all strength. Also it is good work because it goes for the children’s food. It is good, so I feel good.”

When asked about her hopes for the future, Amulu says, “Why should I have dreams? We don’t have those kinds of dreams.” When persuaded by further questioning she gives in and responds, “Sure, you are right, If you ask me like that then I will tell you that what I hope is to speak English and be able to tell important people about spirulina in English when they visit us.”

“I will get married probably in about three years, but I don’t want to think about that.” She goes on to share “If you are looking for a better story you should ask the other women. They are all married and they all have many much more serious problems.

Nandini – Rio

Nandini, from Edyanchavadi is 18years old and has studied up to the 9th standard. “I am one of six daughters; I have sisters that are 7, 10, 11, 15, 16 and me being 18 years old. They are all in school, but I am not.” Nandini cycles to work every morning and hands over her earnings to her mother. She explains “My mother works when she can find some small jobs. My father is an alcoholic, so it is very difficult at home with the violence and so I was taken out of school to start working.” She explains that her father still drinks on a daily basis and that he has stopped going to work since over a year now.

Nandini does not want to talk much about her work, but she explains that she is content to be here at Rio, “The work is easy enough, the group works well and I have nothing to complain about.” When asked about her dreams she laughs it off and says “I want my sisters to study, what else would I dream for? Thats what I spend my days earning for and give it to my mother to pay back the loans. So I have no wishes for myself.” When talking about her childhood further, Nandini shares that she has always wanted to be a teacher for children of a younger age-group, “Maybe kids below the 5th standard would have been nice to teach. I think one of my sisters hopes is to become a nurse, so for her we can still try.”

Nandini is reluctant to talk about marriage or about her future. She says “If you must know, I am one and there are five others, so I don’t want to marry because there are already so many difficulties at home, why now? I can’t marry now anyways.” She then adds, “But anyways, if I had to choose my only request would be that he should not have the habit of drinking.” Nandini makes about Rs. 160 a day.

Kalaivani – Rio

Kalaivani has studied till the 10th standard and cycles to work at Rio every day from Edyanchavadi. Her mother does not work, and her father is a mason but does not work regularly due to his alcohol problem. “Because my father drinks a lot, he gets upset when my mother works and makes some money that she won’t give him, so he tells her to just stay at home,” explains Kalaivani. “That’s why I didn’t study, because there was not enough at home and because my father was causing problems so I went looking for work.”

The work with Rio is not necessarily easy, each piece takes its time, but Kalaivani says that the making things with beads is good and that she is happy to spend her day here. “My parents have moved to another village with the rest of my brother who is 21 and sister who is 22 and both studied only  till the 9th and 12th standard. They didn’t visit me since I was married and so my husband’s family is very upset with them.” Kalaivani says she makes about Rs. 120 per day and hands over all her salary to her husband.

“My dream has always been, since I was a child, to play sports because I am good at it. Any sports, so I then wanted to become a sports teacher. I even found a job in Puducherry, but it was too far so I was not allowed to go.” Kalaivani shares that she is happy working with Rio, but if she had it her way she would be teaching students sports. “I just got married last year and my husband is a good man and does not drink so much. I want a girl because his family already has so many boys so they want me to have a girl.”

Buvaneshwari – Herbal & Wellness Beautician

Buvaneshwari is 42 years old and works in her own beauty parlor in Bomayapalayam. Buvaneshwari’s parents were farmers and she is one of eight children. She and her seven siblings have all studied up till the 10th standard. Both her brothers are working, but Buvaneshwari is the only daughter who is working. “All my sisters are housewives, sitting at home, but I keep changing jobs.” Buvaneshwari has worked in several places, and has helped her husband, who is now a taxi driver, to save and put their kids through an engineering college degree. “We had no real problems as a child, just the usual as we did not have enough to study more. But with my husband we made sure both our boys went to school. My second son is in the first year of engineering. The only difficulty we have is paying back the loan we took to buy my husband’s taxi.”

Buvaneshwari has worked in a nearby crèche, teaching the younger age groups. She then also worked with Auroville’s Village Action Group helping in the field by visiting Self Help Groups and taking surveys. “Everyone always asks me why I keep changing jobs when I had such good opportunities, I don’t know what to say, I guess I like trying different things. I have this shop now and it is interesting. I also managed to get women to find work at the crèche, and I also got people jobs through my husband in the taxi business. People come from Chennai even, asking me to help them find jobs.” Buvaneshwari is an entrepreneur at heart. She explains how people constantly come to her asking for her help in finding jobs because they claim they are none. She says her reply is always, “There are jobs ! I tell them to just open their eyes and look, and if they cannot I will try help them. There is always something that needs to be done.”

Buveneshwari’s has many hopes for the future. She has written and published one book with poems in Tamil called “Idhya Thedagal” which means, ‘In Search of Heart’. She has written some more short stories, but says the previous book has not paid off yet and is not sure how to support publishing the rest. “I did win awards though, they put me on DD Pothigai channel and even today I have been invited to an event talk about my book.” The beautician’s training course took 45 days in November to December 2012, “I did the training at AVAG and we learnt various good, useful skills. We get many clients for eye-brow threading, but also for makeup and preparation for different functions. I try and promote the Amirtha herbal medicinal products, which I use myself, but people are very scared of trying new things.” She explains that the products that are externally applied are more easily bought, but when she encourages remedies that must be consumed, her clients are much more reluctant. “I get a good income, but it fluctuates,  I can make from six to eight thousand a month, but this will get better when I work on the outside decoration of my shop. I hope that I grow this business fast, so that I can also give work to some more women who may come and work here under me.” Buvaneshwari shares her desire to continue writing and hopes she will also generate income through that, “If I do make a lot more, of course I would also like to help children buy school books and such things that are important, but that many cannot afford.”

Buvaneshwari ends by saying “There was a woman I met in Auroville who told me that she had no interest in one job and had to keep changing. This is what I also tell people who ask me why I do what I do, there is always work to do if you know how to look for the opportunities.”

Sarojini – Herbal & Wellness Beautician

Sarojini is 25 and comes from Aanpakam. Her parents are farmers and she has two elder sisters who are both married and a brother has completed his undergraduate and is now working. “My sisters only got to study till the 9th and 10th standard,” Sarojini explains, “I also only got to study till the 10th. I was married to my husband when I was 17 years old.” Sarojini’s husband has a shop, and they both earn to support  their children. Her son is 4 and her daughter is 5 years old.

“I took part in the training for about 40 days in 2012. I learnt all the skills they taught us, but I don’t use them all in my home shop now as there is no demand from clients. I also try and learn new things from tutorials on TV – like for decorating saree-jackets.” Sarojini glues and stitches colourful beads onto the boarders of saree-jackets, and encourages the extra decoration for those she provides her parlour services to when getting married. She says, “I don’t know much about tailoring, but I bought a machine and I am doing this work now as people like it. I go all the way to Puducherry to buy these beads.” Sarojini gets about 5-6 clients a month, mostly only for bridal make-up. “People are not very interested in herbal treatments, facials, eye-brow tending or even colourful eye-shadow. They are only intersted in decorating the hair, tying the saree and the jewelary. Thats why I do the saree-jacket decoration now as well. My inocme fluctuates, but I suppose I get about 6 to 7 thousand a month.” Sarojini explains that she has also volunteered to work with the government for a small stipend, as a contact person in her village to share data and information. She also shares that she feels working with bridal make-up alone is enough. She explains, “In this small village, people do not really want to invest in many things we offer, so my clients are not only from here and come from nearby villages. They already spend money to travel here, so they don’t always want to buy more services, they keep to the basics. Sometimes I also go to other villages during special function days, but it is not easy to bear the travel costs.” Sarojini explains that some bankers were happy to hear of her work and are offering her loans and support, she says she feels proud and hopes more women can learn to do work independently also. “For now I only apply fruit and herbal facials to my little daughter, and that is enough, the few skills that I learnt and am using now are already able to support us well.”

Rajakumari – Herbal & Wellness Beautician

Rajakumari is 31 years old and runs her parlous services out of her semi-constructed house. She shares, “I am one of  siblings. My brothers are 40 and 42 years old and are lorry drivers. My sisters are 45 and 34 years old and are both married. One sister studied only till the 5th, the other till the 10th, and my brother till the 10th and the other brother till the 9th standard at school.” She shares that she has learnt how to stick and become a little independent. Rajakumari goes on, “I was married when I was 21years old to my husband who is now 43 years old. So when we were married he was about 12 years older than me.” She explains that even with the age difference, they were matched according to a lot of different factors and calculations and that she is happy because they get along well. She has two sons, 7 and 11 years old, both studying.

Rajakumari talks about her work, “Even before, I always felt this type of work was needed, it is good for us. I have taken the course to add skills that do not exist here in our village.” She explains that her training was about 45 days and that she learn everything such as facials, make-up application, eyebrows, hair-dying, hair styles, preparing oils and ointments for massaging etc. “The problem is that people are not coming here for many services. No one is interested in facials or eye-brows. The two sets of fake-jewels I bought for bridal dress up and other functions is the main source of my income.” Rajakumari’s earning fluctuates from about 3, to 5 to 6 thousand per month. “The jewel sets were my best investment. Make-up kits and other products have hardly been touched and have not paid back yet. My husband is luckily very supportive. Sometimes when I go to another village for a special function to see if I can find work, my husband will even pour his own dosas when I don’t come home on time. I work with him farming too, but today we both took off for this interview.” Rajakumari and her husband’s house is still under construction, but they have already moved in, living in the living room space with a table set aside for her beautician products. She points to a little room “That space may be my parlour when we find money to finish the house.” Her husband Vinayagam suggests, “We need to offer some kind of discounts, wouldn’t that be helpful? Then maybe people will try the other services as well. They just don’t know what the uses are.”

Parvathy – SmallSteps, Eco Friendly Cloth Bags

Parvathy works stitching Small Steps bags from her house in Navarkollum, she is 33 years old. Every Tuesday she brings her completed bags to the Village Action campus to hand them over and to pick up new material. “I studied until the 9th standard in an English medium school, but I don’t remember much of it. I was not very good at studying so I did not get to study more. I come on Tuesdays here by bus, it takes me about 30 minutes.” Parvathy’s parents were part of a clothes washing company but are not working any longer. “My sister is 50 years old, my brother is 46 years old and my other sister is 44 years old. We had a good enough childhood, there was not so many difficulties.” Parvathy was married when she was 21 years old to her husband who is now 42 and working as an electrician. “We put our kids in good schools, one wants to become a doctor and the other will become a teacher, but lets see whatever their interests are later and we will try work hard to make it happen.” Right now as the children are young, Parvathy explains, so there is a lot of work picking and dropping them at school and keeping the household, but when they are older perhaps I will be able to do more.”

In a week, Parvathy says she stitches about 75 bags, but is capable of making around a 100. “Before this work I stayed at home doing only household work. It was rather dull so I started buying material and stitching things for neighbours. I learnt some basic stitching skills as a child. Now making bags is a more regular task which is good as well.” Parvathy shares how she likes the idea of perhaps becoming an entrepreneur one day too, but that she is simply too busy with her children right now to put that much time into an enterprise. “My hope is that one day we can both earn enough to also built ourselves a two-story, proper roofed house.”

Adilakshmi – Recently joined the Hammock training course in hope to support her family through a sustainable enterprise.

IMG_7368(1) (copy) Adilakshmi travels by auto to work every day. She is 38 years old and is participating in a training training course to learn how to make hand-woven hammocks. Adilakshmi’s parents were farmers and had no education, she has two brothers that have both studied till the 8th standard. Adilaskhmi says she used to work nearby, but that it was difficult to afford the travel costs so she stopped. Her husband studied till the 10th grade, and is 49 years old electrician. She has three children, all currently studying in school, her boy in the 7th grade, and her daughters in the 9th and 12th grade. Adilakshmi shares, “As I was part of a farmer’s family, I was home a lot and there was not much to do.”

Her work with the hammock unit is able to support her husband and father who are at home. She explains that the work is not too difficult, and once learnt she hopes she can increase her speed. One hammock takes about three days to complete initially, but Adilakshmi is confident to be able to do it faster, within two days. “My husband has three illnesses, like thyroid and I think TB and some other illness I’m not sure. I had to take loans to cover his costs and it’s been one year now that he is at home.” Her hope is that this work will provide her with a steady income that can support her daughter’s college fees. Adilakshmi’s shares, “My mother died when I was in my twenties so my father also lives in our home.” Her father helps a little bit here and there in the household, but he does not make an income.
“My dream is to be able to one day build a house, but there are many challenges, so let’s see, it’s not easy.” She continues “My daughter says she wants to be a nurse, maybe her dream is still possible, but I don’t know how she will do that.” Adilakshmi has been working with the hammock unit for only a month and the training is almost complete. She says, “If we give our heart we can do it and we will feel the results.”

Thanuja, a Beautician/Wellness Consultant – Addressing Feminine Health & Hygiene issues in Redefining Local conventions of Beauty

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Thanuja 32 years, living with her husband and three children is rising as a successful entrepreneur in Thiruchitrambalam koot road, Vanur block. She moved to Tamil Nadu from Andhra Pradesh after her marriage and she started learning Tamil with the help of her family  and neighbourhood. Now she speaks Tamil very well. For the past 6 years, she has been associated with AVAG (Auroville Village Action Group) as a member of an SHG (Self Help Group)

She came to know about the “Beautician & Women`s Hygiene” training offered by SEDAB. With the motivation of her husband, she successfully completed the training and immediately started a Beauty Parlor near her home. Her Parlor has been functioning since four months. She can able to earn up to Rs.7000 per month. She gladly said that “My husband recognize my income and respects my profession, which is possible only because of this SEDAB training. I have been trained not only for Beautician but also in laughter yoga, energy healing and personality development”.

Alameli from Herbal Medicines Production – Reviving Traditional Knowledge to improve rural health

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Alamelu- A 30 years, living with her husband and 2 children at Nadukuppam Village of Marakkanam block. Her husband is a farmer. She has been involved in the SHG activities of Pitchandikulam for the past 8 years. During the group meetings, she came to know that there is an opportunity from SEDAB to initiate Herbal Medicine unit at Nadukkuppam.

She utilised this opportunity to become an entrepreneur in the field of Herbal medicine preparation.She actively participated in the training and learnt about the medicinal plants and preparing Herbal medicine & Cosmetics. Now she is able to prepare 18 herbal medicines for major human illness. Currently she has been involved both in the production and marketing section. She states that “There is greater acknowledgement from my family and village on my business. I spend my income for paying interest on my pledged jewels and also the continous support and solidarity from SEDAB, motivate us to concentrate more into the business “

Thenmozhi from Eco Friendly bag production: Empowerment through Employment

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“I am Thenmozhi; I am from Morattandi village of Vanur block in Villupuram. I am living with my happy family along with my younger brother family. Though my both legs can`t function due to Polio, my enthuse towards being an entrepreneur started when my family started supporting me “She passed 12 standards in her academic carrier and with support of colleagues she joined in a Self Help Group. Nevertheless she has been a role model in her group to fulfill the task allocated to her being in a group.

The day when she heard about SEDAB project, not only she but also the whole family is back of her to support at the max. Today she is in line in producing cloth bags in equivalent to others. His father transport her with his shoulders to handover her stitched products. May be her income is low but still she has pride being living with her lovely family.

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