Poverty has been the main driving force behind social injustices and adversities in the Sundarbans region of West Bengal, making women particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, trafficking, early marriages, and girl child mortality. Economic activity is mainly concentrated in the coastal strip, with little attention given to locally available resources for generating livelihoods. Mukti aims to contribute to the “Aatm Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” by promoting the “Vocal for Local” initiative, providing villagers with income generation opportunities to support sustainable livelihoods, preserve unique artistic traditions, and protect local environmental biodiversity
The project provided financial support to MUKTI for promoting the economic empowerment of vulnerable SHGs in Sunderbans through the ‘Swavalamban Accelerator in Sunderbans’ (SWAS) program. The program provided start-up kits to help SHG members start their microenterprises after training and also facilitated linkages with potential buyers or markets through the organization. The project started in December 2020 with the aim of empowering 1000 SHG members in two different trades: handicraft and food processing. A Livelihood Incubation Center was set up in Kankandighi as a training hub for 1000 women, including women from minorities, SCs, STs, and OBCs.
We have trained 1000 beneficiaries in different trades, resulting in an increase in income for 650 SHG women. 417 of these women have successfully established their own businesses, and 717 beneficiaries have been linked with markets. Additionally, we were able to help all beneficiaries open bank accounts to facilitate access to loans in the future. The project was managed by a dedicated team consisting of a Program Manager and Project Coordinator, who monitored the project’s progress on the ground at regular intervals.
Under the project, we have trained 1000 SHG women and established a Common Facility Centre (CFC) at Kankandighi to support MCDF members by supplying raw materials for their products. Mukti, in association with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), started the CFC in the village, and some women entrepreneurs have already started selling their products. Women are now participating in state-level fairs and exhibitions, and an income increase has been witnessed among 450 SHG women. So far, we have successfully completed over 40 Udyam registrations and helped 30 women obtain the Artisan Card, while one woman beneficiary received the FSSAI certificate.
JOURNEY FROM LABOUR TO AN ENTREPRENEUR
Ashima Halder, a migrant laborer from Nalpukur village, lost her livelihood due to the nationwide lockdown in March 2020. She returned to her village and started doing daily labor work to make ends meet for her family, which includes two children. Ashima got in touch with MUKTI in June 2020 and took training in food processing under the SWAS Project. She received kit support after completing the training and started making various food products like tomato sauce, brinjal pickles, mixed fruit jam, chili sauce, banana chips, guava jelly, and varieties of snacks. Ashima has successfully managed to sell most of her food products, and her dedication towards her work is commendable. Due to her skill and expertise, she is now able to expand her business and generate a steady income for her family.
Bharati Hazra, a hardworking housewife from Nagendrapur village, faced devastating cyclones in 2019-2020 that left her 2 bigha land unsuitable for cultivation. With her son's educational expenses adding to the worries, Bharati turned to MUKTI for support. She underwent soft toy making training under the SWAS Project and received a kit to start a small-scale business. Bharati's dedication and sincerity towards her work paid off, and she is now an active member of the village, generating awareness and educating others about the project. Today, Bharati earns Rs. 2500 per month and is expanding her business. Her association with MUKTI has proven to be a life-changing experience for her and her family.