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Alternative Livelihoods for the Women of Penthakota

The case of women in the Penthakota fishing community in Puri is a perfect example of how identities intersect and marginalize some people more than others. The Penthakota community is a linguistic minority in the Puri region. Women from this community are even more removed from the mainstream, often being treated as outcasts. They face restrictions from stepping out of the community and simultaneously tackle resistance from the world outside their community, rendering them in a socio-economic stasis. 

Of course, these restrictions are overlooked when these women venture forth to labor for their families. As in other communities, women here are the last to study and the first to marry, which diminishes their prospects of earning alternative livelihoods. 

Under the Economic Resilience Impact Canvas, Community Action Collab and its partners have been able to leverage one of the skills women in this community possess, turning it into a profitable business. Despite being looked down upon, these women are known for their penchant for tailoring. Demand for their skills is high, but people are hesitant to reach out to them directly. As a result, they have been exploited by middlemen in the past. 

Through the initiative, a tailoring unit was set up. Five women from the community had a keen interest in setting up their own unit but lacked the necessary resources. The team at Gopabandhu Seva Parisad (GSP) invested in a room for the women to work from along with the tools they’d need. Aastha – the unit named by the five women – was open for business. 

It is not just material, but also demand that makes a business. GSP, helped source connections and orders for Aastha’s services. GSP not only sourced bulk orders for Sambhalpuri t-shirts and kurtas but also arranged for a trainer who could help them iron out the wrinkles from their operations. Local Anganwadis have also put in an order for 215 uniforms. 

The unit is fully functional now, and the women in it are not only trained at stitching clothes but also at running an enterprise. The aim is to keep growing and creating employment opportunities for other women in the community. 

The tailoring unit is one of the many initiatives under the Economic Resilience Impact Canvas which adopts the Conservation, Diversification, Aggregation, and Risk Pooling (CDAR) Framework developed by Community Action Collab and it’s partners. Conservation focuses on protecting the existing resources and sources of income and reducing expenses by meeting the basic needs; Diversification brings in more income-generating aspects to the existing source of income and reduces the risk of one source being affected by a shock; Aggregation focuses on coming together to create better social capacity through collective voices and better negotiation of interests among different actors; and Risk Pooling builds mechanisms to reduce risks to income sources and assets. This includes creating social and physical resources to manage risks and mitigating them. By adopting the framework, we’ve been able to design interventions that will significantly improve the conditions of the community ensuring they are able to bounce forward.