Since 2016, NEN Meghalaya has been working in strengthening women’s groups in addressing gender-based violence in the state. Under the thematic area of GBDVAW, NEN Meghalaya has been collaborating with the Akhil Nepali Mahila Samhiti in addressing and redressing gender-based discrimination faced by the marginalised urban poor women in the Cantonment Area.
Over the years, NEN has seen tremendous success in providing marginalized women with access to their rights and entitlements through livelihood initiatives. Thus, when we met Ms Neeta Gurung, a women leader from the Jhalupara locality of Shillong who wished to enhance the livelihood of women from there to aid economic independence, we jumped aboard. In our conversations with Neeta, we uncovered that the women were interested in handicraft production and had a rudimentary knowledge of production as well.
Ms Gurung had started the livelihood training with the objective of uplifting the social and economic status of women by facilitating their training and giving them the opportunity and platform to learn new skills and produce products of everyday use from natural fibres in 2012. At that initial stage, however, owing to a variety of factors, unfortunately, the women that underwent the livelihood training did not gain much.
NEN, believing that these women deserved a chance at a better life, decided to step in and facilitate Neeta’s dream and that of the women in the area. Hence, we organized training on jute crafting, cloth cutting and tailoring there, the first in a series by which we will hand-hold these women starting from production and going into providing market linkages for them.
In our first interaction with the women at the livelihood training program, we learnt that they aimed to learn and gain skills in the area so that they can improve their status at home and in the society and can also earn some money to provide financial support to their families.
Our engagement here will lead to women applying for government schemes on health, education, etc. The women will be further skilled in producing products that are of high quality and in line with the market trend, however, sustaining the cultural identity of Meghalaya. Financial literacy training will empower the women on saving and investment strategies; opening of bank accounts and opting for the right saving options. Market linkages will help the women in selling their products and therefore gaining economic independence.
Chaya Seal, a 70 years old lady from Barapathar, Mawba stays with her elder daughter after her husband passed. Mrs Seal is approaching the Women Livelihood Training with a hope of learning new skills which will later enable her to become financially independent to some extent and will relieve her from the constant feeling that she is a burden to her daughter and the family. Chaya says that she is looking forward to having a productive experience at the Livelihood training and is happy to be a part of the initiative.
Putul Devi, a 46 years old lady at the training says that she is interested to join the training to improve her tailoring and cutting skills and also learn how to make profit out of the products she prepares, a gap that she has not been able to fill.
NEN will continue to work with these women at a community and individual level to promote their right to reclaim their lives!