MSEZ helps rural women

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Mumbai, Nov 6: The festival of lights, Diwali, this year is all set to illuminate hundreds of households under the Mumbai Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) near here, with a special glow on the faces of women.

Women in this area generally work in farms for a full day for about 200 days against daily wages of about Rs 50-70. For the rest of the year, they work as domestic maids or perform other menial chores. This year, however, a helping hand will be provided by the corporate social responsibility (CSR) department of the MSEZ, to the project-affected persons (PAPs) that encouraged women to set up Self Help Groups (SHGs). This has resulted in formation of about a dozen SHGs, with an aim to promote the habit of saving and launching small business enterprises, individually or through a cooperative.

Realising that there was a ready market for traditional Diwali delicacies, including besan laddoo and chivda, the SHGs have decided to engage into business of making and selling these items, which are locally called as 'Faraal'.

Mrs Latika Dongaonkar, a housewife with culinary skills, when requested by the MSEZ to guide these SHGs, she agreed happily.

Initially, the training sessions were held at Mrs Dongaonkar's residence. When the women acquired sufficient proficiency, some sessions were organised in their villages. She taught them about the exact volume and proportion of ingredients, their measurements and the recipe. ''We are aware of the recipe but never imagined that chivda and laddoo can be so much in demand. Now that we have started, we will be interested more in making these items than working long hours in farms under a scorching sun,'' said Sumati Gharat from Chirner village, who is also the secretary of the Jai Yogeshwar SHG.

Another beneficiary, Anjani Kamble, from Ekvira Mata SHG, said she will henceforth concentrate on selling these items more as she can also look after her family while working.

While the kitchens of these women have been abuzz with activity, young girls in some families have decided to make Diwali more colourful. Diya-making has proved to be a boon for them. Till date, the band of girls and women has painted more than 2,500 'diyas' (earthen lamps) against their own initial expectation of 1,000.

''I like this work which is more interesting and less taxing than working in farms. We colour more than 200 diyas a day,'' said Kalyani Vishnu Koli from Koproli village.

The 'faraal' and 'diyas' made by these enterprising women are fully booked. Buoyed by the response, the MSEZ officials are devising ways of expanding such activities to make these women self-dependent on a perpetual basis.


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