Drought-stricken village receives hope from a lady who found other means of earning for the villagers.
When women think of some problem seriously, they are sure to find a solution to it. They are capable enough to raise hills to stop high winds and are efficient enough to grow crops in a barren field. Their mental stamina overpowers the enormity of their challenges. When we came across the story of a village that recovered unimaginably well from a severe drought and that the driving force behind the success were women of the village, we couldn't stop ourselves from bringing it before you. Most importantly, we would like to introduce you to the torchbearer, Ms. Aparna Krishnan who led the women of this village towards brighter days.
Drought That Dried Up The Village:
It was the time between 2010 and 2015. In the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, there is a small village called Paalaguttapalle that was suffering terribly because of drought. Families there, couldn't earn a living as their prime means of occupation was agriculture which came to a standstill owing to famine. They started to migrate. While few settled as labourers, many of them couldn't even find menial jobs too.
A Ray Of Hope:
Aparna Krishnan, a Software Engineer by profession came to live in Paalaguttapalle in the year 1995. She has been closely observing the conditions prevailed in the village and she decided to do her bit. She set to hold discussions with the women of the village in order to bring about a solution to their problems. She came to know that women are good at stitching. This seemed to be a fruitful idea to Aparna to get these villagers out of misery. Aparna suggested the women stitch eco-friendly cloth bags made of pure cotton. Thus, in the year 2016, these women ventured into stitching bags while Aparna took the responsibility of marketing them on social media. “The men in the village are hard-working, but how will they survive if there is no work available for them? Their lands turned fallow, and the sole breadwinner of the family became helpless. It was inevitable for the women to step in,” explained Aparna.
Right Step At The Right Time:
Aparna lent Rs.500 to the women to start stitching cloth bags. She sourced the first order for them from her acquaintances. In 2017, a mammoth order of 1,300 bags came to them from the World Organic Congress event in Uttar Pradesh. As the demand was heavy, more women from the village joined hands. There was no looking back since then.
The bags became famous by the name of the village and ever since then, thousands of bags were made and delivered to customers across India and abroad. They started supplying to corporates and take up bulk orders. Paalaguttapalle bags come in a wide variety ranging from laptop sleeves, sling bags, backpacks, drawstring bags, and tote bags, to the customised bags on demand. "The most popular bag is the vegetable bag, which came as a suggestion from a customer. The customer shared a design of the bag with the women, and they learned how to stitch it. The bag has compartments that help avoid mixing of the vegetables and saves the hassle of having to segregate them at home. It remains the most popular, and is sold out on most days,” Aparna said. When customers came in with requests for unique prints and designs, these women were ever ready. Aparna says that the training these women underwent in Screen printing from Chennai comes to their biggest help. "Custom requests from customers have helped their skills evolve, and bring in varieties of bags over time,” Aparna said. So far, around 50,000 bags were sold to customers across India, and in countries like the USA, UK and Canada. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the women of the village also sold homemade pickles and close to 10,000 masks. “We received a fresh order from abroad for making quilts. The women are busy working on meeting the new demand,” Aparna says.
Decent Living Standards:
At one point in time, the women of this village were not in a position to feed their family three times a day. Today, they earn close to Rs. 5000 every month and more than that, which depends on the order. With this money, they are able to provide their children with good food, clothes and are even sending them to school. They are able to live decent lives and have become self-sufficient. They deal with customers abroad and also speak about their work at various conferences. While supporting their own lives, these women have also become instrumental in promoting the cause of a plastic-free environment. “My financial condition has improved, and I can now provide adequate nutrition for my family. Earlier, we could afford meat only once a month, but now, we have the luxury to buy it every week. My husband takes care of house chores while I am busy. Men in the village feel happy when they hear the bags have travelled far beyond the area, and that our work is appreciated,” 37-year-old Anita, a resident of the village and a part of this venture says.
Hopes For The Future:
Though everything seems to be fine from the surface, there are problems like the intermittent electricity supply. Also, there is very little connectivity with the urban areas with not-so-good transportation facilities. With this, any problem or repair that arises with the sewing machine takes a lot of time to be addressed and cleared. While Aparna is trying to act as a bridge between the bag makers and the customers, she says that she is just trying to help them from behind. She doesn't even have a stake in their profits but is ever ready to help them deal with losses. "Many corporates get bags stitched from these women. But we still need more orders for more to be employed and upscale income,” she adds.
It's not an easy job to pull people out of distress and show them the way to light. What Aparna has been doing is worth praising along with what the committed and determined women of the village are proving to the world.
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