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#StoriesofResilience | Addressing Social Issues through Wall Art

by Meghna Prakash

A boat laborer by circumstances and profession, Yatin Chappale resorted to alcohol consumption as a way of weathering the choppy waters of life. 

Yatin started off as a boat owner, making a living and supporting his family of six. His wife also used to work, but over time, an ear ailment constricted her economic contributions to about INR 3000-4000 per month by selling fish. Yatin has been working hard and earning INR 7000-8000 per month to pay for the weddings of his four daughters. The two eldest ones have already been married, but he had to take a loan of approximately INR 2 lakhs to pay for both of their weddings. Adding to that was the destruction of their asbestos house as a result of Cyclone Fani, which wreaked havoc over the Odisha coastline in 2019. 

Financial constraints forced Yatin to sell his boat and begin working as a boat laborer. Laborers work in shifts of 12-18 hours per day, beginning at 7 AM in the morning and returning home late at night. Some only get to spend a day with their families during the week. Since the work is tedious and physical, and there is no other form of entertainment, male members resort to drinking as a means of getting through the day. The result has been an increased incidence of intimate partner violence, which has a negative effect on children as well. Yatin was no different, and his wife often complained to him about the ruckus that he created after drinking. 

However, Yatin has been working on reducing his alcohol consumption and saving money for his family’s immediate needs for the past few days. The drab wall art installed in the village as a part of the Economic Resilience’s Hope Building exercise has had a profound effect on him. He used to walk past the wall that depicted the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption on families. Passing by that wall about 3-4 times, Yatin realized the pain and suffering that he had been inflicting on his family owing to his habit of alcohol consumption. He promised his wife to reduce his alcohol consumption, and in the past few days, has stopped altogether. The money he’s saving will be used for the wedding of his third daughter. 

He also thinks that if possible with the money saved, he will finance the continuation of his youngest daughter’s education. She had studied till the 7th grade in Telugu medium in Penthakata. However, Penthakata schools only have classes till the 7th grade in Telugu medium, and for continuing her education, his daughter will have to move to Andhra Pradesh. That process costs upwards of INR 20,000. 

Moreover, boat laborers in Penthakata face severe occupational hazards. Information collected from the field reveals that there are approximately 2-3 work-related accidents per week. Serious accidents limit the ability of workers to perform, and hence, their earnings are affected. Under Economic Resilience, we are employing strategies that help the community avoid as many risks as possible. Interventions carried out for developing economic resilience range from skill training in different domains, entrepreneurship development programmes, financial literacy, social protection, workshops on disaster management and non-communicable diseases, as well as initiatives that equip the community with the skills required to combat climate change. Apart from these, high-impact interventions include connecting local cloth manufacturers with the sewing machine enterprises formed by the fisherfolk community in Puri, which will help them diversify their income streams and provide some sort of financial protection against black swan events and seasonal vagaries.