Staff Reporter

Women from economically backward communities exhibited their talent

Women were trained for one year under ROQWARE pilot project The project was launched in December 2004 Women are paid wages according to their work

Bangalore: On display were delicately etched idols of Ganeshas, polished garden lights and stylish benches among other stone artefacts. You could easily mistake it for a work of a designer artist. But a look at the photos of the sculptors behind this range of work will leave you pleasantly surprised.

Twenty-six women from socially and economically backward communities in Melmala village and surrounding areas in Chamarajnagar district had their work exhibited here. The items on display were the result of their one-year training under the ROQWARE pilot project, undertaken by the Mysore Minerals Limited (MML) in collaboration with GTP, a granite finishing company, Sumangali Seva Ashram (SSA) and JSS RUDSET institute.

Under this project, the stone waste generated in quarries was used by these women to make export worthy items. The project was conceived by Jija Hari Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of Mysore Minerals Limited. It was launched in December 2004.

With help from the Child and Women Welfare Department, SSA identified women to be trained under the project.

"These women were scared to even step out of their homes. They did not want to come to Bangalore because they thought they would be abandoned or kidnapped," says Susheelamma, president of the SSA.

With constant support and encouragement, these women have been able to acquire skills and have travelled to Delhi to show off their work, she adds.

Nagamma, now a skilled artist due to this project, says: "Earlier we did not know anything about stones. Now we do not feel like throwing away any stones. We think of what we can do out of every stone."

The women are paid wages according to the products they sculpt. But in the initial stages of training, they were paid a minimum of Rs. 1,000. About 50 per cent of the monuments and 25 per cent of the artefacts have already been underwritten by the project's co-promoter GTP, says Umakant, chairman of the ROQWARE project.

The rest are being marketed mainly through a tie-up with Cauvery Emporium.

Half the project is funded under the Karnataka Kaigarika Yojana. MML and GTP equally fund the rest. The project plans to expand its reach to about 200 to 300 women in its next stage.