Nineteen-year-old Binota Naik is a librarian at the Ballygunge Young Men’s Association. After passing her Class X, she didn’t want to study any more. But she wants to work and earn a degree of independence. So, too, do Sujata Haldar, Mousami Majumdar, Sampa Sardar and Sarmistha Jana, all teenage students of Lake View Girls School. And Green Club’s newest project is offering them a chance to do just that, by exploring their artistic abilities.
The five girls are just the beginning of a self-employment scheme for women of the economically under-privileged community in the Ballygunge area. The NGO will provide the raw materials, through money collected from the sale of old newspapers gathered from city schools, and then market the products, helping these families to supplement their income.
“We have only just started, since last week,” says Swati Ghosh, president of Green Club. “Ballygunge Broti Sangha has provided the space where these girls work every day from 1 pm to 3 pm, after their morning school or job and then housework. They have been enjoying it, and are very creative. We will bring in more women now.”
The girls smilingly agree about loving the work, which is evident from the painstaking execution and intricate details of the artwork on the paper shopping bags, envelopes, earthen lamps, jewellery made from grain, cloth purses and wall hangings, some of which they have learnt to make in school. “Khoob bhalo lagchhey (We like it very much). It doesn’t take very long, and decorating the bags and lamps with mirrorwork and shining paper is good fun,” they chorus.
Secretary of Green Club Kaushik Dasgupta explains: “We achieve a number of goals through this project. As we are concentrating on paper-based products, we are trying to encourage people to replace plastic with paper bags.”
The club will target women in families where the children are not in school. “By giving them the opportunity to work, we will ask them to put their children into schools, and will also help with the education. And since we will collect old newspapers from school students, we will get them involved, letting them know who and how their efforts will benefit,” adds Dasgupta.
The ultimate aim of the club is not just to provide work, but to encourage independence. So, gradually, these women will become responsible for creating an account to buy the materials, distribute and collect the finished products. “But we will continue to help them market their stuff,” sums up Dasgupta.