Kolams help women map business potential

United we draw: Women mapping their neighbourhood in a school ground.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Maria Victor embarks on a decades-old morning ritual that has turned into a key planning tool for impoverished women running small enterprises.

Before her family wakes up, she sweeps her doorstep, splashes water to settle the dust and sits down with a box of rice flour to draw a kolam, a traditional drawing found across south India thought to bring prosperity to homes.

Over the past year, Ms. Victor has used her skill of drawing a sequence of dots and deftly making geometric patterns around them to draw maps that are helping women in Tamil Nadu state to identify lucrative locations to set up businesses.

“We observe every single detail on the streets near our homes, making notes of the shops, tea stalls, water points, temples and everything,” she told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Then we draw it on the ground and understand what we have and what we don’t.”

The kolam inspired maps are now a ready reckoner for thousands of women, all budding entrepreneurs trapped in low paying jobs, to decide which business to start or where to set up shop.

Complete with pie charts on exports and imports from the village, the maps have helped more than 5,000 women earn a sustainable income in six districts of Tamil Nadu, according to the Community Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), an Indian affiliate of U.S. charity Unbound, which supports the mapping project.

The aim of the maps, made in schoolyards, often over weekends, is to ensure a steady income to provide for the families.

Roselin Savariyammal’s grocery store is easy to spot, bang on the highway connecting the cities of Tiruchi to Dindigul.

When Savariyammal’s group first drew their community resource map, the distance of 12 km between her home and the nearest market stood out.

“All of us were travelling to town to buy our essentials at least once a week and it took us half a day to go, shop and come back,” said Savariyammal.

“The map made me see that there was no grocery story anywhere in my neighbourhood and I decided to start one.”

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 9:46:52 AM |

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