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Vat Vrikshya Makes Odisha’s Tribal Women Savvy Entrepreneurs

Sukirna Majhi is a 65 year old widow once not allowed inside a temple because she belonged to a lower caste. Now she is a business woman in the truest sense.


What Vat Vrikshya does

Vat Vrikshya is based in Odisha and works with 2300 women artisans. The foundation directly impacts the lives of tens of thousands of other villagers through the ripple effect of broad based community development programs. Its founder, Vikash Das had a successful career at IBM. He left it behind to go back home and do something for the underprivileged of Odisha. “Our enterprise provides women with vocational training, soft loans, expert advice and market linkages to help develop supplementary sources of income. We impart personality development trainings as well. We track their progress, we keep in touch and we are always ready to motivate them and cheer them on.”

Vat Vrikshya is doing something special here by increasing a woman’s confidence in her ability to be financial provider.

“Now the women are earning 2 to 3 times more than they were earning earlier. So now they don’t engage their kids in their daily activities. We encourage them to send their children to schools. We have programmes for children so that the drop out rates in school can be put in control,” says Vikash.


Success stories of three women

Sukirna Majhi is a 65 year old widow who was once not allowed inside a temple and denied the glimpse of God because she belonged to a lower caste. Now she is a business woman in the truest sense. Earlier she had no money to meet her ends. She was abandoned by her family and she was ruthlessly exploited by moneylenders. She was good at making Bamboo products but middlemen were not paying her enough money for the hard work she was doing. After we provided her necessary skills and market access she is living a comfortable life. She is an entrepreneur and has employed 26 women from her village.

Rani Hembrum was considered a witch. Witch hunting is an instrument of class as well as gender oppression used by villagers to eliminate the suspect and take away their land. Rani is a young woman who was suspected of practicing sorcery and witchcraft. She was thrown out of her village because fellow villagers felt that their village is in danger if Rani would be around. She was left to beg on streets of Baripada. She was good at weaving stoles and scarfs but little did she knew that her hand woven products would find place in wardrobes of Europeans. Now she is living a life of dignity. “I look beautiful when I make others look beautiful through my hand-woven products,” says Rani.

The tribal women play an important role in the tribal economy, but it is difficult to say that their status is equal to that of men even though they participate equally with men in the tribal economy.

Poor adivasi women commonly referred to as head loaders, walk miles through different conditions, collecting wood and fetching water. Gathering fodder, picking leaves, brewing liquor and selling them, the typical items of work of adivasi women are all characterized by monotony, hard physical labour, harassment and exploitation.

Rita Murmu's husband was under the influence of alcohol and gambling. He was beating Rita every night. He was draining out all hard earned money by Rita. As a result her family was living a life of destitute.

Because of Vat Vrikshya's initiative, Rita is a self sufficient farmer who has achieved a sustainable source of income. Rita has successful transitioned her life from an exploited wage laborer to an independent farmer. She grows several variety of organic food corps using ecologically sound practices. She has incorporated livestock and fish culture into her farm. Recently she installed a bio gas plant that generates bio gas from farm waste such as livestock manure and fish waste. The biogas is used as cooking fuel and now she do not send her kids to fetch woods from forests to cook.

Vat Vrikshya provided counselling sessions to Rita's husband and now he is a changed man. He is assisting Rita in her farming activities. Rita's thriving farm has ensured that her family has plenty to eat round the year and she gained the respect of her fellow villagers.

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