Dechavva, who was left helpless after the disaster, said, “Over 200 families moved to relief centres in August and we returned to our village only in October. Estates, farmlands, cattle – everything was lost.”
The villagers here were agriculturists for the most part. Now, with their farmlands and estates buried under debris, their futures seemed grim. The women’s grit and determination here, earned them the title of ‘Kaluru women’. They are now entrepreneurs and the sole breadwinners, owing to Project Coorg - a rehabilitation initiative.
Dechavva became a master tailor 65, says village temple priest, Nagesh Kaluru, approached Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, seeking support to rebuild the villager’s life.
Under Project Coorg, the trust started organising skill development programmes for the women in the village. They were joined by some affected women from Devasthuru village. Soon, the tailoring, food processing training programmes commenced.
Ashrafunissa headed the tailoring unit. She said, “I didn’t know much about Kaluru village till the disaster. I stay in Madikeri and my house also suffered severe damage due to landslides. During this time, I was approached by Balaji Kashyap – who heads Project Coorg. I was asked to train women in tailoring.” 30 women in total were trained for 6 months.
Some older women opted food processing, and 30 women were trained in manufacturing masala, pickle, chocolates, chips, rice flour and other food items by Neena Shetty. She is an award-winning chef from Udupi.
Kashyap of Project Coorg said, “We wanted to create a continuous revenue generating model for the women. We didn’t take the CSR approach as it is not suitable for the situation here. However, sponsors and partners came in to support the initiative after seeing our work.”
The women were taught soft skills to and other business know-how by Kashyap. The initiative launched ‘Yashaswi’ which is a self-help group empowering Kaluru women.
Many sponsors supported the group. The factory building was sponsored by Kodava Koota of North America. Companies donating equipments, the women of Kaluru gradually became entrepreneurs.
Dechvva adds, “I only worked in farmlands all my life. I did not know how to even hold a needle. But our trainer, Ashrafunissa, taught me like I was a child and now I stitch bags for several companies; I continue to earn my own living.” Ashraf says that women get orders from various schools to stitch uniforms. Many more women in the village now have the skill of working with factory jack machines installed at the unit.
Muthamma, an entrepreneur with Yashaswi, started training in food processing. She grinds rice and flour, prepares masalas, also tries some chocolate making. They are given incentives when sales go up.
Flood victims have become an inspiration now, and skill development training is being extended to many other women across district.
This was about how amazingly the Kodagu women bounced back and kept their families afloat amidst such trying times. They are truly an inspiration to all the women out their going through tough times. Never giving up and finding the solution in the toughest of times is the key towards success.
If you know of any more such strong and avid women, tell us in the comments below. Do visit the space for more such inspiring stories!