Jute rope weavers in West Bengal prefer solar lanterns over electric lights | Milaap

Jute rope weavers in West Bengal prefer solar lanterns over electric lights

The heavy monsoon rain clouds darkened the normally bright and sunny sky as I reached Dakshin Barasat. Although it was 9 in the morning, it felt like it was evening time because it was so dark. The raindrops started falling slowly but in about five minutes it was a torrential downpour. I ran into the DCBS office in Jaynagar and waited out the storm. Within twenty minutes, the rain stopped, and the skies started to clear. We headed out to the field on our bicycles to meet Mira Naskar and the rest of the women in the group "Phalguni".
 
During my time with these women, I found out a lot about their daily lives and the issues they face. The majority of these women are involved in multiple businesses like tailoring and the jute rope business, where they themselves produce lengths of jute rope by hand. Today the women of this group were working on producing jute ropes and are able to earn about Rs 100 a day based on the amount of rope they would like to produce.  Mira told me that producing jute rope is a great way to earn a small income because there are no other tools needed and it can be done in any setting. During the day, while their husbands are working, and their children are at school, these ladies are able to start producing the jute ropes at their leisure. Many of the women work hard all day and can make up to Rs. 3000 a month. 
 
I asked these women what were some of the difficulties they faced on a daily basis and the most common answer was the constant "load-shedding" or power outages. Due to the poor rural infrastructure power outages are a nuisance that community members have dealt with for a long time. Before the introduction of the solar lanterns, these women had to use old kerosene lanterns that barely produced any light and left a horrible smell in the air. Their children were always in danger of bumping into the lanterns and burning themselves.
 
Mira told me that now, since they have solar lanterns, they do not have to rely on the archaic kerosene lanterns anymore. It is much easier for them to finish their work and look after their children. All the light they receive from the solar lanterns in not adding to their already burdensome electricity bill. One of the ladies told me that often, instead of turning on the regular tube light, they'll use the solar lantern, because it helps them save money. Overall, the women of "Phalguni" were content with the solar lanterns and looking forward to the day when their other appliances can run on solar energy.


Mira Naskar (center) surrounded by the other women in her group