For today's visit, we met with Sarina Gaji and the other ladies in her group. I found out that there was a huge exam for many classes in school that day, so many of the women were with their children and not present at the meeting. The ladies who were there all had their own small businesses where they do very intricate embroidery work for clothing. The "Chikan & Jory" technique requires hours of very labor intensive and delicate needlework. All this work produces extremely elaborate and colorful designs on the clothing, and is very popular in West Bengal as well as across India. A while ago, most women in rural West Bengal were not able to make their own living and had to rely on their husbands. These days, local organizations like DCBS have taken upon themselves the task to educate women and promote women's enterprise. Many of the ladies here were taught how to use a sewing machine and tailoring techniques through tailoring courses offered by DCBS.
During the day, while this work is being done the ladies told me that there are frequent power cuts or "load-shedding" that hinder their ability to see their work. Even as I was talking with the ladies, the power went, and I myself noticed how dark it became. Sarina told me that the new solar lights are extremely powerful and that she and the rest of the women are able to use the light of the lanterns for just about anything.
Later, on our way back to the office, we ran into Sarina Gaji's husband who owns a little convenience shop in the community. He himself was all smiles and respected the work the work that Milaap and DCBS were doing in the area. It was refreshing to hear him say, "It is wonderful that the wives in this area are able to take care of their families like this. In this day and age it is important that everyone be educated and work." He personally invited me to their home the following week to see the "Chikan & Jory" work in person, and I happily accepted the invitation.
Sarina Gaji (right) and the other women in her group illuminated by the solar lantern