Keni's women show the way

Keni's women show the way

 Women at work: Peeling cashew is a means of livelihood for women in Keni.What’s so special about that, one might ask, considering that the entire coastal region has several small and big cashew processing factories, where hundreds of people in the region have found employment.

What sets Keni apart is the fact that there is no factory here. Cashew is peeled in front of homes, under make-shift shelters. Also, the whole show is run by women, and for women.

With the help of self-help groups, women go to the nearby villages to buy cashew fruit. It is then peeled by women from the respective villages, who are paid appropriately for their work.

The transactions that occur in nearly 200 houses in Keni has run into Rs one crore. The process of peeling cashew in Keni is different from what is followed in the factories. Here, the cashew fruit is soaked in mud pots for at least four days. The women then use sea shells (which by the way is sold for Rs two each) to peel the fruit, and remove the cashew inside.

Taking cashew to customers’ doorsteps

After the seeds are sun-dried, they sell the cashew to customers at their doorstep. Also, the pulp that remains after peeling cashew is used to extract oil.

This oil extraction also has its own procedure. The peel is dumped into earthen pots, which are placed in a row in small pits dug for the same, and a small fire is lit. Thanks to the heat, oil accumulates in the pot. The peel that is still left over after this process is used to light stoves. The oil is sold at Rs 40 per litre.

Keni’s women explain that people from their town have depended on this occupation from generations. Some of these women are also graduates.

“We peel cashew in our free time, and earn some money too,” explains Kanchana, who is doing her second year of graduation.

Help from Dharmasthala Trust

The women’s self help groups here were formed by the Dharmasthala Rural Development Trust. The Trust provides financial aid to some women. The social welfare department has also offered some financial support to these groups.

Women who peel cashew earn at least Rs 100 to Rs 200 per day, and have set an excellent example in women’s self-empowerment, in their own way.

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