Bageshwar, Uttarakhand : From an early age, Sunita Parihar had an eye for fashion and dreamed of one day opening her own boutique featuring all kinds of ladies’ clothing from regular kurtas and salwaar kameez to more fancy and lavish garments like wedding lehengas and blouses.
Hailing from a small village in Bageshwar district, located in Kumaon region of the hill state of Uttarakhand, Sunita, 25, dabbled with the occasional stitching at home but had little opportunity to master the skills which would enable her to create her own brand of clothing.
Then she got married and moved to Bageshwar town where she heard of a unique skills training programme being offered to young women in various disciplines to help them seek employment or start their own home-based ventures.
Waiting till her baby was old enough to go to school, she joined the four-month course in tailoring last year. “My daughter is three years old now and I leave her at the nearby anganwadi ( rural child care centre) so I can attend my classes,” she explains. “There is so much range in making both women and men’s garments. When I finish the course, I will apply for a loan and start my own clothing store.”
Pooja Devi, 25, is another aspiring designer from a small village near Bageshwar. She moved here after her marriage and has a three-year-old son. “My parents knew of my passion for making clothes and when I told them of this training programme, they left their home and friends to re-locate here and look after my son so I could enroll in the tailoring course,” she says emotionally.
Sunita and Pooja are among a growing number of unemployed women and youth, including school drop-outs, who now can hope of leading economically enriched lives with the launch of Jan Shikshan Sansthan’s (JSS) comprehensive skill development entrepreneurship programme ranging from medicinal plant and mushroom growing to tailoring, handicrafts, textiles, electrical technician and IT sector.
The JSS for Skill Development, functioning under the aegis of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, is currently working in eight of the 13 districts of Uttarakhand.
“We started our training programmes in Bageshwar district in 2005 and till date have imparted training in various disciplines to 25,076 youth and women in the 15-45 age group,” states Dr Jitendra Tiwari, Director, JSS, Bageshwar. “While majority of our students are now enjoying economic success in home-based endeavours, at least 35 per cent of our total students are in the mainstream labour force.”
The Sansthan’s focus is on the socio-economically backward and educationally disadvantaged groups in both urban and rural areas of the country. Its’ main target is to impart vocational skills to the non-literates and neo- literates including school drop-outs with priority given to women and minorities in the rural areas and urban slums.
Apart from tailoring and mushroom and medicinal plant cultivation, the comprehensive training programmes include making of baskets, lamps, bags, wall hangings, office folders and other items in bamboo and jute; hand and machine-operated knitting and kalamkari work; training for tourist guides in the tourism and hospitality sector; preparation of pickles, jams, juices and spices in the food processing sector and; training for Domestic Data Entry Operator (DDEO) in the IT sector.
After completing the respective training courses, all successful candidates are issued certificates by the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship. “The certificates are computerized and in our system and we send them to prospective employers,” states Tiwari. “We have found placements in different sectors for many of our former students.”
For youngsters like Ajay Kumar Bharti, 22, the merit of the programme lies in the fact that it offers potential entrepreneurs like himself a holistic training starting with mastering the craft itself to understanding and handling business-related activities such as obtaining bank loans to start their own business.
Ajay is pursuing his Bachelor of Arts degree from the local college here and has enrolled in the eight-month computer course offered by JSS. His skill wiih computers has already landed him an internship as a trainer in a college here. “I get Rs 10,000 a month for coaching students in computer applications. After I complete college, I plan to take a bank loan and start my own Cyber Café,” he states.
The Sansthan has endeavoured to incorporate some information in their respective programmes on the business aspect to prospective entrepreneurs in areas such as marketing, production and sale. But it is in the nascent stage, admits Tiwari adding that they have assisted many young women on how to go about availing of bank loans to start their own businesses.
Sunita’s husband owns a cosmetics store so after she successfully completes her course, she will begin her business by taking orders for garments from his shop. “But I plan to take a bank loan so I can buy some sewing machines and rent a small place where I can train other young girls in stitching. Then I will make readymade clothes apart from taking personal orders,” she confides.
With jobs lost in cities due to the COVID pandemic and reverse migration, villagers are looking for new avenues of employment locally and the interest in the sansthan’s training programmes has increased, observes Dr Tiwari. “In the absence of jobs, villagers have taken up organic farming and we are getting urgent requests to start training courses in organic farming and other agricultural products.” – INDIA NEWS STREAM