Girls make jewellery during SEEDS workshop at Tata Steel Adventure Foundation on Wednesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Nineteen village girls from various parts of East Singhbhum and neighbouring districts, who either did not go to school or had to drop out due to poverty, can now envisage a secure future, thanks to the efforts of social outfit SEEDS.
To help needy girls aged between 10 and 20 years become self-sufficient, the organisation held a residential training programme on the premises of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation at JRD Tata Sports Complex from February 18 to 20.
Experts trained girls to stitch garments and design jewellery, make paper bags and papier mâché items as well as tupas — small baskets earlier made by primitive Birhors from the bark of trees.
When the girls go back to their villages, they will train their friends. SEEDS will promote the products they make in various exhibitions and handicraft stores.
Most trainees attending the workshop hail were compelled to eke out a livelihood but in hazardous occupations such as stone-crushing and brick-making.
Anita Mahto (20) from Sini in Seraikela-Kharsawan, who had to drop out of school when she was Class IX, and who came for the three-day workshop, shared her story.
“My father was an alcoholic and did not work. My mother and I made some money by cultivating a small piece of land, but that just wasn’t enough to feed us. Last year, my father passed away and I realised I had to choose a more feasible livelihood option. Here, I am trying to learn how to stitch salwar suits and blouses, so that I can be a tailor and have a regular income,” said Anita.
Ramdas Birhor, a SEEDS employee and one of the experts conducting the workshop, said that they were training the girls to make tupas in a bid to save the indigenous craft from extinction.
He added that the tupas, made of tree bark, was used as baskets by the Birhor forefathers to steam seeds before extracting oil from them.
“It is no longer used for the traditional task, but the basket is so unusual that it can be used as a custom-made decorative showpiece or even a unique pen-stand,” he said.
“Our ancestors used to roam forests for weeks to collect bark of trees and make tupas. These small baskets are a unique part of tribal legacy,” said the Mosabani-based Birhor tribal.
Shobha Mendhi, co-ordinator for SEEDS’ regional education resource centres, said: “We are trying to train all the girls in vocations that help them earn. They are fast learners. We will market the products in exhibitions and stores. They are always free to sell independently.”