Tribal Women’s Stitching Unit Scripts The Success of Social Entrepreneurship

Paniya tribal women’s stitching unit at Panamaram block of Wayanad district depicts the success of social entrepreneurship since their products have got wider acceptance in the local market and in the district as well. The unit namely “Thejus” was formed at Mathothupoyil village which consists of 12 women belonging to the Paniya tribal community. Thanks to the support given by M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation in association with HDFC Bank’s Parivarthan programme and KSCSTE, SBI Youth For India Fellowship programme and RSETI (Rural Self Employment Training Institute), the unit is now a fully-fledged enterprise run entirely by women. The earnest efforts made by Ms. Isha Mishra and Ms. Vanshika Yadav, SBI Youth For India Fellows are commendable since without their zealous efforts this would not have been possible.

The twelve members’ women group was formed with the support of Panamaram Panchayath and key persons from the Mathothpoyil Paniya tribal hamlet. Frequent interactions were made between the local persons and members regarding the activities of the group, its objectives and how the members will be benefitted. The fellowship project focused on addressing the lack of livelihood and job opportunities by building an interest-based income generation initiative for the women of the Paniya Tribe. The project aimed to build ‘THEJUS’ a tailoring unit as a means to provide alternative livelihood to the women of the Paniya tribe by mobilizing and motivating them to become first-generation entrepreneurs. Creating the confidence of the people was one of the tasks and the support of the local leaders and key persons were crucial in this matter. The group was formed after a series of field visits, one to one meetings with members and group discussions. Once the group was formed, members were trained in the stitching of various kinds of apparel and accessories such as school uniforms and bags. RSETI (Rural Self Employment Training Institute), Wayanad was contacted to provide stitching training to the Women of Mathothpoyil Colony. In the pandemic situation, it was difficult for the community to travel for training, the faculty of RSETI agreed to conduct off-campus (in Mathothpoyil Hamlet) training for the first time! With the support of HDFC Bank’s Parivarthan programme, four machines were procured and given to the members for the project.

The THEJUS unit tells the story that the right people in the right place could make changes at both the individual level and in the group level where the society will be benefitted since skilled workforce will be formed and sustainable income will be also generated.

Initially, the members started their tailoring unit by utilizing the space of an Alternate School functioning in the village. A small space was occupied by the members with the support of the school authorities. Members started to make the products such as masks, cloth bags etc. In addition to the school uniforms, members trained themselves to make apparels such as blouses, nighties, skirts, shirts etc. Skilled assistance of tailors was given to the members as and when they faced certain issues. It’s worth mentioning that the support provided by the SBI team was so crucial at this juncture.

The covid-19 pandemic situation created new possibilities for the unit as the production of masks became an important avenue for income generation. Orders for the making of masks were received from district authorities, the Kudumbasree programme, GramaPanchayaths and from various other agencies where MSSRF successfully facilitated the actions. Another important activity in which the group members were trained was on the embroidery aspects in cloth making. The SBI Youth For India Fellows arranged for professional tailors to teach members and they were rigorously trained in the embroidery skill set. Once the training was completed, the members could engage in the tailoring activity with increased confidence and many of them felt as if they can stitch their own clothes.

Registration of the unit was important and the unit took the name “Thejus” after collective discussions within the team and with the leaders of the community. The name “Thejus” (Malayalam word for Prabha) was given by the community; with a deeper meaning associated with it i.e how this project can brighten up their lives. The members started a bank account for the group at Syndicate Bank, Panamaram branch with the support from Panamaram Panchayat and CDS, and started transactions on their own. The group received funds worth 1.75 lakhs from Panamaram Panchayat. The establishment of linkages was another important aspect for the successful running of the group.

The group was registered as a micro-enterprise under the Kudumbasree District Mission, Government of Kerala for ensuring their support services of them. Group was also linked to the district tribal authorities, the Panamararam Grama Panchayath. Since these institutions are the authorities in the district with reference to the rural development the assistance rendered by these institutions has paramount importance. In the later stages of the growth of the unit, the members started to shift the unit from the working space of alternate school to a private space and the rent for the space will be met by the unit for themselves. The project witnessed the women taking ownership of the project and a huge cognitive shift in their thinking while at the same time remaining true to their traditional sense of lifestyle.

All these activities have happened with the zealous and selfless efforts of Ms. Isha Mishra and Ms. Vanshika Yadav the two SBI Youth for India fellows.

All these activities have happened with the zealous and selfless efforts of Ms. Isha Mishra and Ms. Vanshika Yadav the two SBI Youth for India fellows. These two fellows through their two-year continuous work showed the district that everything is possible if passionately attached to the work and the Thejus Group at this Paniya hamlet is the living example! The unit Thejus has now grown and spread its roots and the whole credit goes to the women of the Paniya Tribe who never stopped believing in themselves and taking a brand new idea. Support of HDFC Banks Parivarthan Programme, State Bank of India (SBI) Foundation, Tribal Development Department, Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment (KSCSTE), and Pananmaram Block Panchayath, Kudumbashree District Mission, are crucial in making this to happen.