“As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.” – Gautam Buddha
Kamalini, which is the Sanskrit word for lotus, is also the name of the Delhi- based NGO Protsahan’s primary project. Protsahan’s founders believe that women are the key to a thriving future for their family and community. To help women thrive, in 2007, Protsahan set up Kamalini, which is a vocational training center targeted at migrant women, school drop outs and domestic workers. Through courses like tailoring, computers, handicrafts etc., Kamalini opens up an income source for women; which has the positive, spiral effect of them being able to partially support the needs of their families, earning family’s respect, and giving their self-confidence a boost.
Courses offered include catering, corporate and domestic housekeeping, child and elderly care, cooking, cutting and tailoring, embroidery, beautician, basic IT. Basic English skills are also imparted; as are open school and basic literacy skills for school leavers. All courses are accompanied by training in soft skills too. This covers topics like politeness, discipline and hygiene, which are crucial elements in preparing their women for the working world. It is this all-round development of their women that has led to good feedback from employers, many of whom are first-time employees.
What I found commendable is the efforts that have been taken to build tieups that will strengthen the programme and enhance its impact. For example, the basic IT course is conducted in collaboration with NIIT. Life skills workshop are conducted by organizations like Ernst and Young. And in July 2011, the Delhi Government gave approval for offering the training programme in Housekeeping and Cooking under the Technical Education Outreach Scheme (TECOS).
What’s also noteworthy is the methodology followed whilst conducting these courses. For example, the focus is on “performing” and not on “Knowing”. Hence, lecturing is restricted to the minimum and emphasis is given on “hands on training”. Most courses are part time as that is most suitable women from such backgrounds. It is for the same reason that no formal education is required to attend any of their courses. Further, teachers adapt to the student’s capacities; and the length of the course is expanded to meet needs, as and when required. When necessary, counseling on an individual level is done too.
Kamilini’s support does not end as the course comes to an end. Post training, the organization helps women with employment opportunities. They have also setup production centers, at which women are encouraged to prepare sale-able products using the skills gained through the trainings. This enables women to earn an additional income with improved livelihoods.
This setup has tremendously helped women like Suman. 39-year-old Suman Bhargava lives in South Delhi. She is mother to three adolescent school-going children and her husband used to be a freelance property consultant. But his high BP forced him to quit this rewarding but high stress job. The family had been making ends meet thanks to the support from friends and family. Kamalini’s tailoring classes has helped Suman save on the tailor’s fees. Thanks to these skills, she’s also earning Rs. 1,500 or so by stitching saree blouses for ladies in the neighbourhood, and an additional few hundred by contributing items to the organisation’s production center. With a desire to get more work, she says, “One day, I hope to earn sufficient for my family’s needs, which includes a good education for my children.”
Another woman whom I met, Shailkumari, was full of praise for Kamalini too. An immigrant from Uttar Pradesh, Shailkumari, settled in Delhi, post-marriage, about 14 years ago. Her husband is a conductor in a school bus and their 12 year old daughter studies in the 7th standard. In 2011, she enrolled for the cutting and tailoring course, then followed it up by the cooking course. She says, “The stitching course was custom made for me. Ever since I was a child, the needle and thread always fascinated me, but the lack of resources in my village never gave me the opportunity to learn.” She adds, “Thanks to the cooking course, my daughter eats a variety of items at home. The days I have seen, in my youth, have motivated me to educate myself… if not in reading and writing, then at least in my skill set!” She goes on to say, “I want to be an inspiration to my daughter and Kamalini has given me that opportunity to set a better example for her.”
Dring my visit, I also met Sarita, a homemaker, who lives in Kishangarh with her husband and two children. Her husband is a plumber and their family income is Rs. 6,000 a month. An inferiority complex, coupled with minor depression, made her abstain from all kinds of social activities. But things have changed after the Kamalini cooking course. She says, “In addition to cooking skills, Kamalini taught me to be happy and content with my life. I have learnt to share my problems with others. This helps reduce my worries to some extent. I now feel confident and look forward to begin working soon too.” She adds, “This course has taught me the importance of education. It has motivated me to be self-sufficient and self-independent. I want to take care of my family’s needs and at the same time, give my children a bright future. ”
During my conversation with Monica, she had mentioned, “Throw a stone into the river, there are small circles surrounding it. In the similar way, we try to focus on single women to which in turn benefits society automatically.” The stories of Suman, Shailkumari and Sarita are testament to this fact.
In fact, a feedback survey conducted done in 2011, among Kamalini graduates, revealed that 60% of them have seen an increase in income post their course. That’s quite an increase for families where the average monthly budget in the range of Rs. 5,000-7,500.