Bridging the skills gap

Basta, a women-led initiative of Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi, aims to impart skills and provide sustainable income to those in the rural sector.

December 18, 2016 05:00 pm | Updated 07:08 pm IST

Aarti Tiwari

Aarti Tiwari

‘Basta: Waste To Worth’ is an initiative founded and supported by students of Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. With an aim to catalyse the energy of the youth for a good cause and kickstart a women-led movement, students from Lady Shri Ram College came up with the idea of teaching rural people about skills.

Basta, being a student-led initiative, was initially self-funded. With no need for heavy capital investment, Basta operates on its own profits. “Our initial investment barely cost us Rs. 4,000 which we pitched in from our monthly pocket money,” says Apoorva Sharma, one of the co-founders.

Founded in August 2015, Basta is supported by a U.S-based non-profit organisation, 1M1B, and Lady Shri Ram College. They started their initiative at Shyampur village and concentrated on the rural people who were trained in semi-skilled work. “We started off by giving the women, market bought physical samples of bags, which they attempted to copy using waste cloth pieces and flex sheets.

Once they had sufficient practice working with flex and waste scraps, they moved on to new designs,” says Malvika Verma, another co-founder.

In their second project which was based in a village called Zamrudpur, volunteers provided sewing machines to help unskilled labourers learn sewing. They hired a trainer and organised stitching lessons. After a month-long training, they had a group of nine women working for Basta.

“In the beginning, we didn’t receive an encouraging response. The women were sceptical and doubtful of our intentions. We get that reaction in the beginning of every project. However, a month or so into working with us, they start to enjoy their work immensely and give us great feedback,” expresses co-founder Akshita Singla.

“They come for training regularly, meet order deadlines and are always eager to work. They often call us and tell us that they want more work and have also started spreading the word to other women,” continues Akshita.

Sustainable Development

Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, Basta is currently working on four SDGs — gender equality, decent work, economic growth and responsible consumption and production.

Gender equality: Basta aims to allow women to work from their homes and acquire new skills so as to be able to contribute something.

Decent work: Basta gives the women a great deal of freedom, flexibility and a certain sense of pride. They are not only able to choose the terms of their working conditions but also contribute to the family income and often, learn new skills.

Responsible consumption and production, and reduced inequalities: Basta believes that change starts with consumption patterns. It promotes shopping from Indian brands so that there is upliftment of semi-skilled and skilled labourers in India.

Additionally, it looks at what is being produced as it feels that mass production of something that is not useful is wastage of resources, time and energy.

Economic growth : A country’s economic growth is positively affected when everyone contributes. However, weaker sections of the society fail to contribute as they do not possess the skills to work.

Basta trains these people and allows them to not only work but also earn and contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Project Tihar

The National Service Scheme (NSS) of LSR is conducting a month-long creative rehabilitation and reformation programme for female inmates at Tihar. Basta is handling one of the four modules that will be conducted.

A team of four LSR volunteers will be teaching the inmates to make diaries out of waste material and marketing these products across Delhi University colleges. The aim is to help the youth understand the importance of rehabilitation of criminals along with providing inmates a creative outlet while they serve their terms.

How to volunteer for Basta

This year, Basta was integrated into the NSS of LSR as a project and has 25 dedicated volunteers along with some administrative volunteers who work all around the year for Basta.

They circulate a basic form on their Facebook page and WhatsApp. Anyone who wishes to help people from rural areas in having a sustainable way of earning are welcomed by the team. However, volunteers of Basta are not paid for their social work.

Aarti Tiwari, 57 years

“So far, we have been able to produce 250 products. It feels nice to have someone buy something made by us.”

Prabha Devi, 24 years

“I like being able to buy school stationery for my children with my own money”

Abha, 23 years

“We want to learn something and utilise our time. People think we only want to sit at home and watch TV but even we want to earn money”

Prabhavati, 26 years

“We are happy with the kind of work that we are getting. It allows us to stay at home and earn money.”

Indu, 25 years

“The only thing we want is constant work. There should not be a break in our supply of work because our family members start objecting and say that our work is not important. With Basta, there is regularity”

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