Charity vs empowerment

India is a poverty ridden country. According to the Rangarajan committee 29.5% of the Indian population lives below the poverty line. The fact is more pronounced in the rural and backward states of the country which is primarily dependent on agriculture as the basic occupation. The land holdings there are controlled by the few rich people and the rest are the farm labor who depend on their daily earnings for the survival of their entire family. This goes to say that a bad spell of monsoon would mean that they would have to pull their children out of the schools and they would have to migrate to the cities in search of a livelihood.

Most banks provide ample support by way of reduction of interest rates in the loans or by way of deferred payments. The Government in some cases also has helped these farmers by writing off the outstanding loans to these farmers. This helps them tide over the bad patch but in the long run these farmers and also the landless labor who are never at the receiving end of these benefits fall prey to looking up to calamities to tide through the bad patches.

The NGO’s and Government organisations who work extensively in the slums and poverty stricken rural dwellings provide for the people and give them ample support. In most cases their medical and basic needs are met but it also inculcates a sense of dependency on these organisations to fund their monetary requirements. Sometimes they look up to these organisations as their only source of livelihood.  Also corruption in these areas makes it impossible for the people to get what is allotted to them and most NGO’s working with poverty ridden people soon realised it.

The need to empower people to find their own feet therefore became of paramount importance.  Today most of the NGO’s have skill training programs where they teach the adult men and womenfolk of the households basic life skills which would help them supplement their earnings and in cases where there is absolutely no earning this training module has helped them find a source to provide for the entire family.

India is famous for her handicrafts. The handicraft and cottage industry has proven to be one of the major export oriented industry. Handicrafts have not only found its place in the urban haats and exhibitions but also in our urban malls. The skill required for this has been handed over from generations by grandmothers and mothers to their children. In other cases the NGO’s have started skill centers to provide such training. Be it the Kantha and jute industry in West Bengal, the handwoven sarees of the south of India or the Katki silk sarees and Pipli work in Odisha or the Warli Painting industry are just some examples of successful attempts by NGO’s to promote the artisans to find a source of livelihood without leaving the confines of their homes. Also the lace industry in Hyderabad and Karnataka and Chikan embroidery industry in Lucknow  helps young girls to help their parents earn more than Rs 50 a day to supplement their family income. The Lijjat papad movement and Anand have empowered women in Gujarat and Maharashtra and are success stories for such models.

The Kantha and chikan are no longer limited as the must haves in feminine wardrobes but it features in most fashion ramps and found its place in the international fashion scenario as well. I have worked with some organisations who have been providing training to young girls and women in the urban slums to find a means to earn a livelihood through such cottage industry. The upcoming festival of Diwali and Christmas has these girls and women make candles and colorful diyas and sell them. Also the embroidery business and garment business takes little capital and widely popular skill. In some cases the girls and women are trained in the beauty industry to enhance their income and provide for a career.

Dharavi in Mumbai is an excellent example of the cottage industry which houses not only one of the largest leather goods industry but it is also a major exporter of the leather goods. Dharavi has most of the garment industry within its confines. Entrepreneurship and the need to generate employment are the only means to eradicate poverty and empower the masses. If you can’t find a job for you, why not create it and create it for others as well. If one skilled person can teach another person the art…… he is empowering more people and helping more people to a means of livelihood just by sharing information and skill. Skill is something that can stand by you when nothing else does.

We donate money to various causes involving people but instead if we donate our time and teach or share some life skills that we have emulated over our life time we can help people to perhaps develop a skill to last a lifetime and also a sureshot means to earn a livelihood and support a family. They will no longer need the help of any charitable institutions but rather be independent as to provide support to many like them.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day…… Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Lao Tzu


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