Rama Patra has not received any special training nor was covered under any popular scheme of the government. But she is happy over the last couple of years, making a living by stitching leaf plates at home in Mahadeiput of Koraput block. She is grateful to Jina Macha, a girl younger to her in the village, for being the source of inspiration for women like her to become independent.
The way of life in this little village changed about two years ago when Jina returned from Nandapur where her father was serving as a teacher. She learnt the technique to stitch siali leaves and make plates from them.
Now that she has returned home, she began doing the same on her own without publicising her work or trying to convince others to take up the work. But soon the message spread and Rama Patra and scores of other women evinced interest in learning this skill.
While some women in the village could stitch and make about 100 leaflets a day, it was not an easy task to do so without mastering the technique, she said.
Jina is today no more involved in making leaf plates due to her ill-health, but the inspiration that the women in the village got from her has not allowed them to look back.
Eighteen women from Rana street in the village formed an SHG where Rama was also a member and did business collectively. Such collective work helps individual members spend more time in the forests collecting leaves.
In a day, leaves that are enough to stitch 250 plates can be collected.
The group maintained quality of the leaves over the years and attracted customers even from Koraput, making the business still more lucrative, she added.
The inspiration that the women in the village got from Jina Macha has not allowed them to look back