These Feisty Village Housewives Stepped Up To Run Their Families When Drought Hit Their Husbands’ Jobs

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What would you do if the meagre income your family is surviving on, vanishes one day? What would you do if you do not find any other job because you stay in a remote village? Sounds terrifying! Doesn’t it? Families in Paalaguttapalle experienced the same due to continuous droughts between 2010 and 2015. Paalaguttapalle is a small hamlet, with about 60 Dalit families, in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district. Men and women couldn’t find employment in the village which led to financial distress. The housewives in the village came together and started a business to restore the financial balance in their households.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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How did the situation change?

The women all sat together one day near the village temple to discuss the issues that are plaguing their village due to continuous drought. Some of them knew tailoring. Aparna Krishnan, who has also been living here since 1995, was there with them. She said she would start looking for orders.

“My husband Nagesh and I moved to this village in 1995, after leaving our city jobs. We wanted to lead a more meaningful and useful life. We bought some land to farm. I also started teaching kids in the local govt school. We practised Ayurveda. We also started working on rainwater harvesting, farming and agricultural issues, livelihood and afforestation.” said Aparna

Aparna Krishnan

When the village economy was reeling due to continuous drought, men lost their jobs and there was no steady source of income. ‘Paalaguttapalle Bags’ venture started with a simple order for 100 bags from Aparna’s friend’s shop in Bengaluru. After the bags were delivered to the shop owner, he liked the quality and they started receiving more orders. In no time, the stitching team grew from one to nine. Now they make tote bags, gusset bags, sling bags, lunch bags with zip and bags with custom prints of logos and designs.

How do they operate?

“Some of us together support the women in some external ways like connecting with the customers, spreading the word about bags through social media and friends, helping them with handling financial accounts and getting the skill training. The women themselves handle all the production work. ,” says Aparna.

‘Paalaguttapalle Bags’ The team

The team consists of Roopa, Rani, Ramila, Nirmala, Annapurna, Lakshmikantha, Anitha, Buji and Kala. From picking up the raw material from the nearby town, making and packing the bags to delivering them to customers via India Post – everything is entirely handled by the women.

The women travelled to Chennai to learn screen printing when the customers started asking for custom logos and designs. Aparna Krishnan’s Facebook friend Suraj’s father Narasimha connected the women to artist Bhaskar, who agreed to teach them screen printing free of cost. Another Facebook contact Vignesh accompanied the women in Chennai during their training days. He took complete responsibility for making it work for them in the village. Arun Kombai, also met on Facebook, with his brilliant design skills took the bags to another level.

Vegetable compartment bag

Confused with the new terminology “Vegetable compartment bag”? See the image below.


Vegetable compartment bag

In recent months, this bag has been a huge hit. This bag helps you to segregate and carry your veggies from the market while reducing the usage of plastic covers which we use normally to preserve vegetables.

“The design of the vegetable compartment bag was suggested by one person. I passed on the idea to the women. In one day, the women came up with the prototype and soon we were flooded by orders,” says Aparna Krishnan.

The bag is made using the cotton brought from Madurai. It has six compartments and is available in two sizes — the large one can carry 10 kgs and the extra large has a capacity of 15 kg.

From local to global

Through word of mouth, the women got orders from many prestigious events. The women supplied the bags for the Organic World Congress and for the Aid India meetings. Orders have also come from abroad – Hong Kong, events in America and Canada and also the UK.

The bag the women made for the jewellery store in Hong Kong

Want to sport one of these wonderful bags as your new style statement? You can reach out to them at [email protected] or visit their Facebook page.

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A Group Of Karnataka Women Pushes Alcoholic, Abusive Husbands & Social Stigma Aside, Earns Through Recycling Workshop

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At thirteen, Neela was married off to a husband much older than her. At sixteen, she became a mother, and at nineteen, she was a widow. Despite having no regular income, she was faced with the daunting task of taking care of her in-laws, her own parents and of course, her little daughter. For young Neela, life has never known a trajectory where her voice is heard and her destiny is not blamed. That was until she came under the ambit of Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation and discovered a new identity for herself. The taste of financial independence was indeed delightful for her, but her zeal to work hard for a newer, better life stood at the helm of it all.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

Founded by Kameshwari from Bengaluru, the foundation works with distressed women in three Karnataka villages, helping them to earn their livelihood by handcrafting a wide range of decorative or daily-use household items. Like Neela, nineteen women with struggles similar or worse, have found a new lease of life at Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation. Every piece of item created at Hosa Belaku is recycled from leftover fabrics, paper, dry waste or scrap metals.

Hosa Belaku – a new dawn

“I have been working in the social sector for the past two decades. Since 2013, I got associated with Belaku Trust, who was working with rural women in Karnataka,” shares Kameshwari, a former legal executive. 

“Most of these women were victims of alcohol abuse and harassment on the domestic front. Some were widowed, single mothers or differently-abled – making life all the more hard for them in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, circumstances led Belaku Trust to close their operations in 2015. The women were left in a lurch,” she narrates.

Some of these women desperately pleaded with Kameshwari to let them sustain their only source of income and independence. Moved by their plight, Kameshwari resolved to do her best to help as many women as possible. Investing a sizeable proportion of her own savings, she launched the Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation in 2017.

At present, the foundation has active workshops in three villages in the suburbs of Bengaluru, namely, Halasuru, Achalu and Kadahalli. 

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The gritty women of Hosa Belaku

At the prime of her life, Pavithra’s husband left her for another woman. Heartbroken and devastated, she was clueless about how to earn her living. The story is similar for many other women in these villagers, with careless, abusive or estranged husbands, most being alcohol addicts. The pangs of poverty would sometimes become more unbearable than the constant physical abuse by their husbands. Yet, they had no way to have some respite from the ordeal. Few women did work seasonally as agricultural labourers. The backbreaking toil in the sun would take a toll on their health, while the deplorable situation at their homes would haunt them for the rest of the year.

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

Kameshwari mortgaged her jewelery for Rs 6 lakh to start Hosa Belaku Artisian's Foundation. Most of the women employed in this foundation face domestic violence in their homes. Kindly donate here : bit.ly/hosabelaku

Posted by Efforts For Good on Sunday, July 21, 2019

Society, with its primitive doctrines, only made it worse for these women. For instance, nobody was willing to marry Shivlingi because she had a facial deformity. After a point, her own brothers abandoned her as if she had become a liability.

If one visits these women now, they would be found basking in their newfound success with Hosa Belaku. But, not only the women, Hosa Belaku’s workforce comprises a 19-year-old young man as well. All his life, Yogi, who is affected by Polio, had accompanied his mother everywhere. She used to work with the foundation until she recently passed away in an accident. Yogi’s father is visually-challenged, so the entire family received a major emotional and financial setback after his mother’s sudden demise. A helpless Yogi would painstakingly drag himself from door to door in search of work. “We took him in and trained him in toy-making. Now you would find him in a corner, making beautiful toys for children,” shares a proud Kameshwari.

Sunshine, Lamp and Dawn – Illuminating lives

The women groups at the three villages are designated with three unique names and assigned with a unique task each. Kirana (Sunshine), the group at Kadahalli is involved with paper products, making notepads, bags and jewellery.

The Halsuru group Deepa (Lamp) has adopted the art of block printing. Vibrant, stylish and beautiful handbags, cushion covers, stoles and notebooks are curated with the utmost care and precision by the women.

At Ushe (Dawn), needle and thread rules. Women who were already skilled in sewing and embroidery now earn by making stuffed toys, patchwork products and embroidered fabrics.

True to their names, the groups have indeed brought new light into the lives of their employees.

Suma and Jayamma are both senior workers at Kirana who have succeeded in constructing small concrete houses for themselves, a huge step up from the dilapidated huts they spent their youth in. Another aged lady in the same group has another compelling achievement to be proud of. Bearing the taunts and trauma from her drunkard husband all her life, she has single-handedly raised a son and a daughter with proper education. Her son, who is currently an aspiring engineer, was supported with a laptop from Hosa Belaku. Honamma, a young widow from the group Deepa is treading a similar path, raising her son all on her own.

The only solace

How much gratitude these women have towards Hosa Belaku is perhaps evident from Shri’s unwavering dedication. Diabetes is taking a toll on her eyesight yet she refuses to give up and continues etching her grit on the ornate block-printed fabrics.

The reason for such gratitude is manifold. For the conscious urban consumers, Hosa Belaku is striving to save the environment with their 100%-recycled policy. But, for the workers, it is the lifeline which not only offers them economic security but also allows them a place to voice, share and resolve the problems plaguing their lives.

“They come here and find a peaceful break from their household obligations. Some still face domestic violence regularly, the workshop is an escape for them. They discuss their issues and try to find feasible solutions. It takes the load off their tired minds. The work here is a breath of fresh air for them,” Kameshwari asserts.

“We have been assisted time and again by established non-profits and retail chains across Bengaluru, who have graciously showcased and marketed products made by our artisans. We would like more people to know about Hosa Belaku and its incredible women, and respect their brilliant spirit by purchasing their crafts,” Kameshwari expresses her wish.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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