Meet the women benefiting from our new handicrafts project. This is Rashida Bibi. Beside her is Anjum Khatoon, her 6 year old grand-daughter. Rashida is 35.
Rashida lives in a makeshift shelter beside the stinking nullahs (open sewers euphemistically called canals) of the Topsia rag picker community in central Kolkata. Child marriage is common here. Illiterate, married at 14 and a grandmother in your 20s, life is a cycle of drudgery, poverty, domestic violence and child bearing. A girl can be empowered to break the cycle through education and paid work.
Leicester artist Linda Harding and librarian Helen Bratchell (both fabulous needlewomen and Indiaphiles) led a workshop in November on behalf of Tiljala SHED for 25 women and girls like Rashida. Using old saris, traditional block printing, kantha embroidery, sari ribbon and various embellishments, the women made the most beautiful cushion covers and tote bags.
Rashida and the others loved the workshops: “Usually we get called to boring meetings [on child protection, health and hygiene] This was so much better” said one. They really want to make a living from this.
You can help
Can you help us to set up this project, so that we can empower not just these 25 but ultimately 100s of women who desperately need paid work so that they can support their families and avoid early marriage? Donations of old saris from my Kolkata friends would be most welcome too. One old sari can help a woman feed her family for two and a half months.
Maryam, from a rag picker family, says “Everywhere there are a lot of Iftar parties but poor people are not invited. Here we feel like home as we are part of organising, we feel this is our Iftar”
Thanks to the generosity of individuals and also the UK’s Human Relief Foundation, 2000 extremely vulnerable people from Kolkata’s rag picker communities enjoyed Iftar in the final week of Ramadan this year. Special thanks also to SmallChange.ngo and GlobalGiving donors. You all made this huge event happen in just a few days.
Iftars were held in each of our target communities: Topsia and Narkeldanga Iftars were supported by individuals via the crowdfunding platforms. Tangra and Park Circus Iftars were supported by the Human Relief Foundation. Each was a very happy occasion. Tiljala SHED staff worked tirelessly to ensure that all the most needy were invited and that they had a really happy time.
On Wednesday 26th April Tiljala SHED was honoured to welcome US Consul General Craig Hall and Mrs Meeryung Hall to inaugurate our new Beauty Training Salon. Other guests of honour included Mr Imran Zaki and actress Tanushree Chakraborty. This new training skills centre will provide 60 destitute and unemployed girls from the slums and squatter camps with the skills and qualifications to earn a living. Our chief guest congratulated Tiljala SHED on all the good work it does to empower Kolkata’s most vulnerable people. He stressed the importance of empowering women and how skills training enables a girl to support herself and her family. He endorsed Shafkat Alam’s assertion that economic independence earns a woman respect in a marriage and reduces violence.
The girls were delighted to meet the guests of honour and to present them with gifts of flowers.
The training and the certification is sponsored by Godrej as are all the consumables required for the training programme. Funds are still needed to cover the annual running costs.
Shafkat Alam reports “Thank you so much Craig Hall and Meeryung Hall for your valuable time. Yesterday was a red letter day for Tiljala shed. Craig and Meeryung inaugurated our new Beauty Training & Empowerment Centre for Girls at Tiljala-The first of its kind in this area. The certification is done by Godrej. Our girls welcomed him with showering flower petals. With lighting the lamp and cutting the ribbon they unveiled the new beauty training salon. They they visited the library for girls and had a wonderful time. Our girls performed guitar, songs, dangal dance and the program ended with Meeryung singing for the children. Thank you Anmesha Sharma for coordinating. Thank you everybody for their support.”