On March 17, 2014, a Certificate Distribution Programme was organized after the successful completion of a Tailoring course at SATYAM Community Centre of SARVAM at Poothurai Village. This training was organized jointly by Indian Bank Self-Employment Training Institute (INDSETI, a unit of Indian Bank) and Sri Aurobindo Rural & Village Action & Movement (SARVAM, a unit of Sri Aurobindo Society). INDSETI is one of the major Rural Self-Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs), started under a partnership involving the Ministry of Rural Development (Government of India) and the Indian Bank.
The Director—INDSETI; Branch Manager—Indian Bank, Thiruchitrambalam Branch; Counsellor—Financial Literacy and Credit Counselling Centre, Pondicherry; and Directors—SARVAM graced the occasion with their presence for the programme.
A total of 30 village women from four villages under the rural development programmes of SARVAM successfully completed 21-days Tailoring Training, after which they were awarded Government-Recognized Certificates. There was a whole-hearted attendance from the group of women, which mostly included widows, single mothers or women with dependent families. The trainers were also very dedicated and ensured that each woman attending take back the maximum that the training could offer. Both the groups—trainers and trainees—attended the programme without absence of even a day, which laid the foundation of success of the sessions. The training sessions followed a rigorous schedule, starting at 10:00 am and lasted till 4:00 pm, six days a week (Sundays being the only day off). Considering the fact these women juggle the roles of wives, mothers, daughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, cooks, cattle herders, field workers, and minders of myriads of other chores, it is highly commendable that they were willing to devote this time.
SARVAM has organized some training programmes previously too, but they were conducted for durations of maximum 2 hours per day, for a week or so. For the first time a training programme involved such long time span, therefore lunch and snacks were provided for the attendees by SARVAM. This course would be of great help in making the women participants independent, self-sustaining small-scale entrepreneurs, by selling their stitched garments and dresses to members of their communities and villages, and some of the really talented ones can even go up to Pondicherry or Villupuram to offer their products to the urban outlets. Also, for the first time government-recognized certificates were awarded for any programme conducted at these villages, which made the women eligible to be employed in enterprises and operations which require basic training.
Among the women participating in the programme, a mere 30% had reached up to high school education, 50% of them had not been able to complete even middle school education, and many of them were completely illiterate. This was their first attempt at any kind of methodical training, even though it was vocational. They felt proud to receive this useful (and in some cases first ever) certificate in their thirties and forties. It was a major achievement for them to complete a course at an age when they have given up on ever getting such an opportunity, and this boosted their self-respect too.
Holding the certificate in hand and tears of gratitude in her eyes, a participant said “The course gives me sufficient confidence to work more. And with the help of it I can achieve greater heights in future and support my kin.” Another participant also visibly moved at receiving this ‘honour’, said “Many in my neighbourhood ridiculed me when I started attending the training session, and I had to put up with comments like ‘What is the need for cattle-grazing women to learn tailoring’. I became a butt of gossip and people predicted that I’d fall flat on my face in this attempt, but overcoming my initial fears I attended the session very confidently and happily. Now I feel much honoured to hold this valuable certificate in my hand.”
These rural marginalized women proved beyond all doubt their trainability and intellect, exceeding the expectations of the trainers at the speed at which they picked up even advanced tasks and modules of training. All the members had so many queries, confusions and uncertainties about the outcome when the course was started, but SARVAM volunteers did their utmost to convince them of the advantages of this Programme. At the end, not only were the women pleased, they felt privileged and fortunate to have participated. Every woman shortlisted by SARVAM passed the exit/course completion exam efficaciously. The SARVAM directors and coordinators felt this was their personal achievement too, to be able to host such a prestigious project and help their wards progress in life.
Now more and more women from Poothurai and surrounding villages are coming forward with keen interest to attend and learn new things, a good milestone for the future training attempts of SARVAM.