Belaku Trust – Empowering rural women through hand-skills
The Belaku Trust started working in villages of Bangalore Rural District nearly 15 years ago and primarily focuses on health and development. The Trust also trains women in hand-skills as a means of generating income.
The Belaku Trust was set up by a group of like-minded professionals from health and social sciences who believed that there was a need for an organization that combined rigorous research and community involvement to improve the quality of life in the villages of Kanakapura. Though Belaku Trust was initially started as a research organization, they soon realized that research was not enough and had to focus on empowering deprived rural women. Over the years they have implemented activities for sustainable livelihoods through skill development trainings.
“Belaku works in villages of Bangalore Rural District on development, health and income generation with emphasis on women and children. We carry out community interventions as well as research, with the aim that these be mutually supportive. Also we felt that the only way women can address basic health needs for their children and themselves if they had a steady income, thus began the income-generation initiatives like Kirana, Deepa and Ushe. These initiatives empower rural women financially and enable them to live with dignity,” says Baneen Karachiwala, Co-ordinator of income generation projects for the trust.
The Kirana income-generation group has a total of 10 women who have been trained in making recycled paper which is used to make products like notepads, greeting cards, gift envelopes, gift tags, bookmarks, gift bags. The unit is sustained by its innovative and attractive products, which find markets within the country as well as abroad, including in the United States, the UK and Germany. “Kirana was started in the Kadahalli village in 2000 and the women have been trained by Jenny Pinto, who makes products out of recycled paper. The women are constantly taught new techniques and the products are sold across various boutiques in India,” explains Baneen.
After the success of Kirana, the Trust started working on two other projects. “Deepa self-help group specializes in block printed products. The women make exquisite silk, scarves, T-shirts, sarongs, belts, bags, cushion covers, table runners, silk covered notebooks, tablecloths, bedspreads and gift wrap paper. The women earn anywhere between Rs. 2, 000 and Rs. 3,000 in a month depending on their level of skill. Also through donations, children receive education scholarships and medical aid when needed,” she adds.
The Ushe Project, which was implemented three years ago in the Achalu village trains women in hand-embroidery and designing. The women make patched and embroidered bags, sarees, dress material, napkins and hand towels. They even take custom orders for sarees. “We’ve managed to sustain all our groups because the women continuously improvise and come up with their own new decoration techniques. The quality of products has gone up in the last few years. In the near future we plan to include more women in the projects as the demand for products have increased,” says Baneen.
The Trust also showcases their products at various exhibitions, “We do a lot of exhibitions and craft fairs. We recently held an exhibition at Raintree and the response was overwhelming. We plan to hold more such craft fairs in the next one month or so across Bangalore. We believe economic empowerment of these women will facilitate social and political empowerment of women. They will actively take part in the decision making in the family and community,” she says.
Prices for Kirana products range from 20 - 700, Deepa products range from 150 -1,500, Ushe products range from 200 -2,000. Log on to www.belakutrust.org for more details.