Handicrafts, cooking offer rare hope to women
A project, which runs eight cooperatives in the alleys of the Agashnagar slum, will showcase its work when it sells its food during the January 16-21 World Social Forum, the annual convention of anti-globalisation forces.india Updated: Jan 16, 2004 20:34 IST
Stitching up clothes and cooking lunches for office workers, 200 women in the slums of Mumbai have found a glimmer of independence through a project that offers them incomes and a break from the cycle of gender and caste discrimination.
"In India, women suffer the most. They rely first on their parents or their brothers and then their husbands," said Sister Isabel, a Spaniard who launched the Creative Handicraft project in 1984.
"When a couple only has girls as children, it's seen as a catastrophe: The husband leaves. I wanted to build something for those women."
The project, which runs eight cooperatives in the alleys of the Agashnagar slum, will showcase its work when it sells its food during the January 16-21 World Social Forum, the annual convention of anti-globalisation forces.
For the first World Social Forum outside Brazil, organisers chose Mumbai whose high-rises house some of the world's top global firms but where around half of the 18 million-strong population lives in poverty.
Johny Joseph, secretary general of Creative Handicraft, said the project began as a way "to offer a salary to women so that they don't hesitate to send to school their children, who were spending the day begging."
"These are generally women in difficult situations, who are illiterate and uneducated, or who were beaten by alcoholic husbands," he said.
Lydia Miami, an Asia officer of the Paris-based Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development which supports the project, stressed a key obstacle was the dowry system which permeates Indian society.
"In India, it's the woman and her family who have to pay dowry, but they don't always have the means. And that's why they get beaten," Miami said on a visit to the site.
Sitting on the ground with a dozen other women in brightly coloured saris, Beula, 22, stitched a pillow cover to be sold through the project.
"My husband's job is unstable. For me it's good to have a permanent income," she said.