Over the last few years, the Indian multinational, Larsen & Toubro, have supported a variety of CRS activities through their Corporate Social Responsibility programme. Earlier in 2016 they donated three new sewing machines to the CRS women’s empowerment programme which offers courses in tailoring, embroidery and knitting. The most talented graduates of these courses have been selected for the Nari Dana project. These women are learning to produce very high quality products to be sold both locally and on overseas western markets. Through employment in this small business, they will earn a secure living. Some of their products were put on display at a special event at the Larsen & Toubro corporate office on 26th September.
In addition to offering skills training courses, the CRS women’s empowerment programme encourages groups of women to form Self Help Groups (SHGs). These groups are fully participatory and democratic and have a tremendous impact in terms of giving women a sense of self-confidence and equality as individuals, as well as the skills and resources to be self-sufficient and independent. During September, a representative from the West Bengal Government’s State Resource Centre conducted sessions at the CRS centres at Pally Mangal and Dum Dum explaining the concept of SHGs. The women were very eager to form SHGs so further sessions will be conducted to provide the support that they need to get established.
For the women and girls who take the year-long training courses at CRS centres, the hope is that their new skills can translate into making a living. Those who learn tailoring and embroidery, who can make jewellery or soft toys, or who can do hair and make-up are encouraged to set up their own micro-businesses or join a small business cooperative. Ten women who previously took the tailoring course at CRS’s Basanti Devi Colony centre gathered on 15th September to refresh some of their skills. There is particular demand in the local market for hand towels which are decorated with cross stitch. The CRS Production Leader gave a special training session showing the women how to prepare high quality products for sale. Funding for this event was provided by Anglican Overseas Aid, Australia.
A report by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) revealed India to have 287 million illiterate adults, the highest number in the world. While there is full literacy among affluent Indians, the poorest members of society are not projected to achieve universal literacy until 2080. In 1965, UNESCO declared 8th September as International Literacy Day. This year’s 50th Anniversary honoured five decades of efforts to increase literacy rates worldwide. Children from the Sihsu Jagat (Children’s World) programme at the CRS Education Centres in BD Colony and Sukantanagar organised this year’s celebration including songs and recitations by children and teachers. Women and girls who attend the CRS skills training programme also shared what difference literacy made to their lives.
Teachers’ Day has been an annual celebration in India since 1962. It is held on 5th September, the birth date of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India. Children attend school as usual but, instead of normal classes, hold celebrations in appreciation of their teachers. Children at CRS’s 8 urban slum centres and four rural village schools celebrated in the day in their own ways. The students of CRS’s Training Center for Differently-abled Persons also held a celebration, enjoying a sing-a-long with their carers and teachers. In addition CRS organised a small get-together at the office headquarters to thank the teachers who make such an important contribution to the lives of children from poor and underprivileged backgrounds.