Larsen & Toubro, the company that supports women’s skill training as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme, conducted an annual audit in April, speaking with beneficiaries and examining their work.
Revd. Loraine Mellor, who has been elected President of The Methodist Church in Britain for 2017-18, visited Kolkata to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Kolkata’s historic Wesleyan Methodist Church (now under the jurisdiction of the united Protestant denomination, the Church of North India). On 14th October, Revd. Mellor spent a day visiting CRS centres at Topsia, Bibibagan and Pally Mangal where she learned about the opportunities provided by CRS for children and women from slum communities. She also spent time at the new Nari Dana Production Centre in the grounds of St. Paul’s Cathedral. At the end of her visit she said, “I am inspired by the work CRS is doing especially the women’s empowerment programme”.
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.