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Erecting tents, building nests in Kollam

Ignatius Pereira
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18 women of Edakidam in Kollam district erect shamianas to make a living

At Edakidam and surrounding areas of Ezhukone in the district, every shamiana (tent) that comes up to host jubilant celebrations is held together by 18 women. They are not challenging, or competing with, a men’s forte. They just want to be different and make a decent living out of it.

They are a self-help team of hardworking women who are pushing to redefine the role of women. Their Pulari Self-Help Group has brought about a new dawn in the attitude of society at Edakidam, where women like them had been chafing under tradition in their efforts to get self-employed.

Many options

T.S. Valsala, president of the group, says the shamiana project was chosen from various options before them. They now feel it was the best choice. Things were a bit difficult in the beginning, and a couple of men had to be engaged. But that was three years ago. Now the shamianas come up with sheer women power.

“We now erect them in minutes. The rates are fixed according to the size of the shamiana. On an average, they earn a clean profit of Rs. 2,000 on each shamiana. It all began four years ago with a bank loan of Rs. 2.5 lakh. The loan with interest has already been cleared. That shows how successful we are,” she says.

Almost every day brings an order for a shamiana. If the requirement is for a small one, then the services of all 18 are not required. During their free time, they engage in promoting the reading habit by operating a mobile library of sorts. Books and magazines are taken to the doorsteps and a modest library fee is collected, Ms. Valsala says.

They have their own little godown to store their wares. Apart from the shamianas, they rent out utensils and chairs meant for small gatherings. And there are plenty of such gatherings taking place in their area. Bookings are heavy, the president says. There are days when all of them have to concentrate on the shamiana side.

Bookings

Bookings are now pouring in from distant places too. Ms. Valsala says Pulari has expansion plans from the profits they have saved. Very soon, they will open a stationery shop in a suitable location at Edakidam. All 18 of them got trained in umbrella-making. “Maybe, if everything goes well, we may start manufacturing our own brand of umbrellas,” she says. “It is will power and team spirit that is driving Pulari forward.”

Some years ago, all of them were unemployed or underemployed. But now, they have a steady income.

Ms. Valsala says the government offers various schemes for women under the self-employment programme. Women should tap the opportunity keeping in mind the dignity of labour.

But they should also be careful enough to choose the right scheme. Once a vocation is chosen, there should be no going back.

Then women can succeed in bringing about a new “Pulari” in society.

And Ms. Valsala’s Pulari team is stealing the show at Edakidam.

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