I had the pleasure of meeting with the women that comprise the self-help group "Marti Samaty" which has been associated with DCBS for about 7 years. Most of these women have been receiving loans to fund various businesses that these women have started to empower themselves, and benefit their families.
I was able to speak with group leader Jasmina about life in rural West Bengal and what her thoughts were about solar energy and the lanterns many of these women had received recently. She explained that she, like many of the women in the community, gets up around 5 a.m. to take care of their livestock and tend to the small garden in front of her house. She then wakes up her children, two boys, one in 4th grade and the other in 6th grade. After getting them ready and feeding them breakfast, she sends them off to school, which is about 5 kilometers away. By this time, her husband goes out to the bazaar to purchase all the groceries they need for the day's meals. It takes Jasmina about an hour and half to prepare a day’s worth of meals for her family.
Once the cooking is done and her husband has left for his work as a laborer, Jasmina is able to sit down with her Chikan work. Every week, she receives custom orders through a store at the local bazaar, and it normally takes her a week to do all the elaborate embroidery work requested by the customer. On an average, she is able to make about Rs. 500-1000 per sari order, of which the majority of her income goes towards covering her expenses.
"A lot of times, we had to light kerosene lanterns to be able to do my chikan work at night or when the power cuts out. There has been many moments when the product has been damaged by the smoke and heat coming from the lantern. If you place the lantern a little too close to your work, it will burn through the thin cloth of the sari," she explained. She went on to say that the solar lanterns were perfect for her work, and she can even balance the lantern on top of her work without worrying about damaging her work. "I think the quality of my work increases when I am able to focus and clearly see what I'm doing and the light really helps in that way," Jasmina mentioned. According to her, the time it takes for her to complete an order has also gone down after utilizing the solar lantern. Jasmina wants to thank all the wonderful people at Milaap and DCBS that have shown such compassion towards her and the other women of Dakshin Barasat.
Jasmina holding her new solar lantern.