Damal shows the way in self-help

KANCHEEPURAM, AUG. 21. Determination and yearning for entrepreneurship among women have made Damal (on Chennai-Bangalore Highway near here) a prominent spot in the map of self-help groups (SHGs).

Deviating from the regular activity of rearing cattle or taking up manufacturing of readymade food products, some of the women SHGs have taken up manufacturing of leather shoe upper crust, plastic bits from `use-and-throw' carrybags and running fancy article shops.

When the Annai Therasa SHG became eligible for taking up economic activity three years ago, some of them suggested that the group take up job works from shoe or `chappal' manufacturing units. A Chennai-based wholesale supplier of leather upper crust to shoe manufacturing companies came forward to provide job works.

A group started accepting orders for leather shoe upper knitting work. The District Rural Development Authority and Voluntary Health Education and Rural Development Society (VHERDS), a non-governmental organisation, which promoted the groups at Damal, sought Government permission to provide technical skill training for the members at a fashion technology institute at Taramani in Chennai.

Twentyone members from the district were sent for the training, said the Collector, R. Venkatesan.

Some members of the same group decided to open a provision shop and obtained loan from the primary agriculture cooperative society.

Members of Saraswathi and Om Sakthi groups pooled in their inter-group lending interest earnings for setting up fancy article shops where hairpins, hairclips, hair bands and facial items were sold. Hitherto women at Damal and nearby hamlets had to go to Kancheepuram or Baluchettychatram to purchase these items.

Swarnambigai SHG has taken up manufacturing of plastic bits by collecting the discarded `use and throw' plastic bags and supply it as raw material for plastic road laying work, which is fast picking up in the district. Though the SHG sells the plastic bits for Rs. 12 per kg nearly 90 per cent of the sale proceeds goes to procurement of plastic bags, cleaning and drying, rent, repayment of machinery loan and maintenance.

The response from industrial houses, for whom a live demonstration was conducted by the DRDA at Irunkattukottai near Sriperumpudur recently in the presence of the Rural Development Secretary, Shantha Sheela Nair, was overwhelming, Mr. Venkatesan said adding a request for 10 tonne of waste plastic bits had been received from the industrial houses.