Many young women in Tamil Nadu, India, grow up without access to much education, and with the expectation that they will work to assist their family’s income. In Eggur Krishnagiri district, adolescent women are forced to work long, arduous hours as incense makers and Beedi (a type of cigarette) rollers. This work is poorly paid and time consuming. A thousand Beedis (about a day’s output) is paid 75 Rs/ £0.75. Additionally, the production of these goods has a significant health cost, as the women are more susceptible to diseases such as Tuberculosis. This type of work perpetuates the cycle of poverty in Tamil Nadu; the women producing the Beedis and incense sticks remain unskilled and in order to break this cycle, they need to acquire professional skills that will enable them to find employment and live in dignity.
Tzedek’s third time partner CDRW (The Centre for the Development of Rural Women) is offering 50 women an intensive one year course in computer literacy and basic skills. The course will cover Windows, Linux and other operating systems. To assist their students in getting jobs after the training, CDRW will also provide career guidance and self-belief seminar.
The beneficiaries have now all completed their first training in essential computer skills. All are fully proficient safe one who struggles a bit but receives extra help from the supervisors. Owners of two shopping malls, a hotel owner, and 2 doctors visited the training centre after 6 months and were all prepared to employ the young women immediately. They promised to pay them Rs. 6000 per month the first 3 months and RS. 7500 per month after the trial period. This means their income will have tripled in the space of a year thanks to their newly acquired computer skills. As a result, they will have food security and enough money to pay for medicines and clothing.
The Knock-on Effect
Once the women will start working they are expected to contribute Rs.200 a month to another 50 beneficiaries for twelve months to help them get training. This model promises that the project is sustainable from its second year allowing new beneficiaries to learn professional skills.
A Day in the Life of a Beneficiary
Deepa is 20 years old; she lives with her mother and sister, and a father who is often drunk. She wakes at 5.30 am every morning, fetches water, cleans the yard and looks after the goats. At 9.00 she starts rolling Beedis or making incense sticks, which she continues to do until 4.30, with only a short break for lunch. Then she makes dinner for her family and is in bed by 8.30 pm.When Deepa was told that she was chosen by the CDRW to participate in the Computer Training course she cried with joy. Since Deepa joined the initiative her schedule has changed. She now travels 5 km every day to CDRW’s learning centre, spends 5 hours in training and returns home.