Livelihood leads for struggling women

Livelihood leads for struggling women

Livelihood leads for struggling women

She was bored with her humdrum life. A technical lead with an IT giant, Vinutha Choudri (32) wanted to give back something to society — do something more ‘meaningful’ as she says. She pondered over the options before her — build an orphanage, a temple?

A visit to a mall showed her the way out of her dilemma. “I saw this group of girls selling ‘kundan rangoli’ among other trinkets at a stall and it struck me that the best thing to do was to use my passion for arts and craft to benefit underprivileged girls,” says Vinutha.
Soon enough, she floated Living Raaga, an initiative to provide training to underprivileged women in making paper and crystal flowers, glass painting, sketching, candle making, card making, origami, soft toys, kundan rangoli, terracotta jewellery and other articles. “The idea is to provide a means of livelihood for women which doubles up as a hobby too,” she says. While she was looking to tie-up with an organisation to channel her services, her friend informed her about Abalashram which supports orphan girls and women with post-marital problems. She approached the ashram’s secretary B V Shesha with samples of her work and was immediately taken on board to conduct arts and craft classes for interested women in the ashram.

It’s been two months and the personality change among the girls is palpable, feels Vinutha, who spends a few hours on weekends at the ashram. “They have realised that they possess some talent. Something as simple as an arts and craft class has changed them from mechanical beings into individuals who can ‘think’. Earlier, their goal would be getting married, but now it is also about earning their own livelihood through something they are actually good at.”

Expressing a similar sentiment is Rajeshwari (22) an inmate of the ashram. “I have discovered my passion for art. After I get married, I can still pursue this to earn some extra money,” she says.

Till now, girls at the ashram were into tailoring and making paper bags, which are supplied to retail chains and other companies. “What clicks is the simplicity of the idea, making it effective. Girls have an inherent interest in arts and craft and they can use it to earn some money. To add to it, it boosts their confidence further when their products sell well,” says Shesha.

The reasonably-priced creations are sold through a store situated at the ashram premises and a blog created by Vinutha. The profits are used to buy more raw materials for the products. “The response has been overwhelming. I have been receiving orders and requests for diversifying the product range,” Vinutha says.

Ask her about how she manages to do it all — marketing the products, handling work, home and spending time with her hubby and she replies, “All it takes is time management and the urge ‘to do something’.”

Vinutha has been a Bangalore girl all her life — did her MCA from Central College, Bangalore University and married a Bangalorean. She feels that the people of the city are blessed with large salaries and the money to spend on luxuries. But this was not a privilege but a responsibility. She adds, “We often complain of ‘not having enough time’, but contributing a little over the weekend for the underprivileged is what makes it worth it.”

Vinutha is also content with the fact that she has inspired many of her colleagues to invest some time in the project —  two of her colleagues are now helping her conduct these classes. As for the financing bit, Vinutha supplied the initial materials required and later the ashram took over. Vinutha now wants to give wings to her idea — reach out to women in alcohol and drug re-habilitation organisations, employ more voluntary teachers, create more products and organise an exhibition. “One can call a woman empowered only when she does something to empower other women.”