A silent empowerment drive is underway as 33 young women undergo masonry training at the Perunkadamanur village here. On completion of the 45-day training programme, these women would become self-reliant. But for now, the district administration through Magalir Thittam had launched female masonry as a pilot effort to meet the rising labour demand for rural infrastructure.

Where masonry skills in rural areas were handed down as oral tradition to the family members, training under Magalir Thittam would have a scientific outlook, with ratio of mixture, centering and plastering taught to women, said Collector C.Munianathan.

HOPE Foundation is imparting training at Perunkadamanur and Tharangambadi, where seven persons are trained. At Perunkadamanur, with only few of the 33 women from the construction sector, others had joined to learn masonry, which has been a male bastion in terms of job and its underlying economics of differential-wage.

Speaking to The Hindu, S.Suryakala, project officer said it has been proposed to impart masonry training in about 50 per cent of programmes conceived under Magalir Thittam, throughout Tamil Nadu.

Magalir thittam proposes to shortlist few other NGOs to impart masonry training in other areas. Women were absorbed through Panchayat-Level Federations after conducting ‘mega entry-level interviews' and information circulated through self help groups. Masonry training is remunerative as it could fetch Rs.350 as a day's wage, Ms.Suryakala said.

For 2010-11, over 750 women and men within the age group of 18 to 35 years would be provided employment-oriented, skill-based training . Apart from masonry skills for 350 people, other skills such as spray painting, JCB operators, CNC training, hospital housekeeping, nursing and electrical training for 300 people is being envisaged.

With the progress of beneficiary enumeration for the Kalaignar's Veetu Vasadhi Thittam masonry training has been conceived as a demand-driven programme.

According to Mr.Munianathan, the demographic transition caused by a migrant male workforce has ensured that women's labour gets tapped to meet the demand triggered by the Kalaignar's Veetu Vasadhi Thittam.

As of date, 70 people would be given masonry training with a stipend of Rs.100 per day. Unlike in other training programmes under Magalir Thittam where there is a stipdend of Rs.25 per day, masonry has been provided with a higher stipend to ensure retention through the training period, says Ms.Suryakala.

Other training programmes are imparted through institutes that ensure placement in groups also to ensure that young girls adapt themselves to new cities, Mr.Munianathan said.

For the administration, it has been an uphill task, what with the ‘discomfiture' attached to construction wage labour especially for women. While the initial advertisements and releases hardly had women takers , the current band of women could perhaps help the cause of female masonry in the district.