India

UNHCR

Livelihood Programme

Livelihood Programme

Weaving Dreams Into Reality

NEW DELHI, India,January 16, 2016 (UNHCR)

 

The dusty lane of one of the Rohingya refugee settlement in an area called Shram Vihar, Delhi is abuzz with hectic activity these days. The silence has been replaced by cheerful voices and happy faces of some refugee women busy making a living.

 

The secret behind this joy is the ongoing livelihood project run by an organisation called ACCESS who has in turn engaged the National Education Society of India (NESI), to support UNHCR in its refugee livelihood activities.

 

Under the livelihood project managed by ACCESS, 24 Rohingya women living in the settlement, have been taught weaving techniques using jute material and they work from home. The women make jute products such as bags, which are sold in the local market. They are paid according to the items they produce. On an average, a woman is able to earn over Rs 4,000 per month, certainly makes some difference in their lives as it economically empowers them.


Shaheen (name changed for confidentiality purposes), 30-year-old from Myanmar who has been in India for the last 5 years, says, “I haven’t earned even a penny before this in my life. You have no idea how good and confident I am feeling after joining this project. It has given me a new hope and something to look forward to.”


The three month training by NESI has given some refugee women a new and happier chapter in their lives. Efficiently harnessing the potential of Rohingya women, which until now had remained largely untapped, Prem Devi, instructor, jute craft working from NESI said, “Initially, it was a big challenge to convince and sustain the interest of refugee women in this project as they had never worked in their lives before. Many of them are not very educated and don’t understand the local language, but with continuous counselling we managed to convince them.”


She added, “Despite of community resistance, the women came out of their homes to attend the training programme. Today we see a new kind of excitement in them and now more refugee women want to participate in this project.”
After serving breakfast and sending her children to school, Aleesa these days now has a different task to complete. “I finish the household chores quickly and start making jute items. With the money I earn I can now buy new clothes for my kids.”
She has four kids and came to India along with her family around two years ago after being forcibly displaced from her home in Myanmar. “Something positive is happening in my life finally. I feel liberated,” she said.


NESI provides raw material to the refugees and provides instructions about the expected final product. The professional quality products, including bags, newspaper holders, pot and keyring holders, wall hangings and other decorative items produced by the refugees are then sold in the market by NESI.


For 28-year-old Gauhar from Myanmar (name changed), earning money for the first time in her life is a confidence mechanism and an encouragement for all women to do better in their lives, against all odds.
“I was fascinated and picked up the skill when I saw other refugee women engaged in this empowering activity. Now every morning I look forward to making jute items, whilst having my tea. I still dream of my country, and about the day I can return home. But this time, I will go home as an empowered, confident and independent woman,” she added while huddling together with jute raw material in her hands.

 

By Shuchita Mehta in New Delhi, India

 

Photo credit: UNHCR/Shuchita Mehta

 

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