Women at the Ernakulam district jail may emerge from behind the bars skilled enough to be self-employed, thanks to the sanitary napkin making unit set up at the jail exclusively for women inmates.
Though jails already have small entrepreneurial training initiatives such as tailoring and preparation of ready-to-eat snacks for women inmates, it is perhaps for the first time that any jail in the State has rolled out a significant programme exclusively for them.
The programme was rolled out in March with the corporate social responsibility (CSR) funding of ₹12.84 lakh by Cochin Shipyard Limited. The money was spent on setting up a semi-automatic machine, readying a building alongside the women’s block, purchasing raw materials and roping in a trainer to help the inmates.
“The sanitary napkin is being branded ‘Freedom Care’ and is primarily meant for the use of women inmates of jails in the State. The programme is at a training stage, while its commercial launch will be subject to permission from the State government. But our primary goal is to sensitise women inmates to the fact that they can lead a dignified life earning decent income once they are released,” said Akhil S. Nair, jail superintendent.
So far, 3,000 napkins have been produced, and they are being used by the inmates. The machine being installed is a semi-automatic one with capacity to churn out around 1,000 napkins a day. Three inmates are being trained at a time, including for operating the machine and packing, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“The idea is to train all women inmates at the jail. A week’s training would be sufficient to make them well-versed in the job. The response from the inmates has been very good as they seem keen to lead a decent life away from the prison,” said Mr. Nair.
The production will be gradually scaled up as the user feedback from the inmates has been good. Since the programme is now in the training stage, the price of the product is yet to be fixed and will be decided by the government. If found successful, the initiative may be replicated at other jails in the State as well.
The Jail department already markets various food products and textiles, besides running a gents beauty parlour and four petrol pumps across the State. Inmates showing signs of reform are being engaged for such initiatives. All the initiatives of the department have ‘freedom’ as part of their brand names.