The bus ride to Valayapatti was fantastic and a much needed outing after a week of sitting at home, since it has been pouring cats and dogs in this part of the South. I jumped at the opportunity to visit a village in the border of Namakkal district. I met Jothi Lakshmi, Manimekalai, Shanthi, Gowthami and Manjula, at Jothi's house at around eleven in the morning. I was treated to a fresh cup of tea and some snacks. The field officer in charge of their Joint Liability Group had already informed them of my visit and so, they'd kept ready on display some of their completed work and work in progress for me to see.
Jothi Lakshmi and others in her group availed a loan from GMF, Milaap's partner, for the purpose of making and selling/renting kundhan jewellery. It's been over three months since they've started their business. All the women get together everyday for two to three hours, after finishing their household chores, and sit down to make beautiful jewellery of different shapes and patterns. They make bracelets, necklaces, earrings, bangles etc. It takes them approximately two hours to make an entire jewellery set consisting of earrings, and necklace. They told me that their business is only picking up pace now. They've been marketing through their contacts in various Self-Help Groups, friends and relatives. In addition to the effort that they put in on their own to market their products, the Panchayat has allotted them one out of ten shops, exclusively reserved for women from Self-Help Groups who set up their own businesses and enterprises, at a central location near a bus stop. The shop will be rent free. Jothi told me that the shop will be functional come next month since they only have to get electricity connection there. They also plan on helping out other women by letting them set up their products meant for sales in their shop. It is encouraging to see the kind of empowerment women can achieve with just a little (micro)credit.
Jothi Lakshmi and group