In a steadfast progressing world, the Industree Foundation‘s POWER (Producer Owned Women Enterprises) Project partners with IKEA to create a transitional impact on the environment, promoting sustainability, equity and women empowerment. Mainstreaming women in the local production centres will play a crucial role in ensuring the product is economically, socially and environmentally more sustainable. Focusing on uplifting and empowering women from tribal and rural areas of India by giving them the training to extract fibresfrom various products like the banana trunks and then making products out of it, provides them with the base to come up with product ideas for their own with these sustainable materials.
Murugeshwari, a mother of two children, is a woman producer across the Banana value chain in Tamil Nadu and is working with Industree under the Producer Owned Women Enterprises (POWER) project funded by USAID. The production unit she works in manufactures products using natural banana fibre. The banana plant after the harvesting of its fruits is traditionally burnt or thrown by the farmers as they are considered farm waste. Industree Foundation has conceptualized a value chain to convert the banana bark into rope, strips, and fibre to produce high-quality lifestyle products that are sold to global supply chains, including brands like IKEA. Women from targeted locations are aggregated into groups of 200 and are trained on banana bark product development through hard skills training. They are further provided training on soft skills including women empowerment, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
The POWER Project provides opportunities for women producers like Murgeshwari to be resilient to life crises and encourages them to be economically independent, even in the face of unprecedented obstacles like the global pandemic.
While a sustainable environment is what we have to achieve, it can be done while promoting women’s empowerment. If one looks at it, it is all a matter of the right set of skills and training that needs to be imparted to the people. Once that is done, the trained people become capable enough to be self-sufficient and also greatly help in training others, thus helping the economy boom and the environment replenish.
Vijaya Kumari, 20, lost her parents at a very young age and had to become the sole breadwinner for her five younger siblings. At her uncle’s suggestion, she joined IndustreeFoundation’s POWER project, when the team visited her village in Nakkundi, Karnataka as a part of their mobilization programme.
As a proud producer, she now heads a team of 15 women producers in her unit and assigns work to different workers, supervises them and takes stock of the work being done. She says, “Initially, I was very hesitant, however with due training and skill development, I have learnt to make different products using bamboo and train other women to make these products. This reflects an empowering move and has strengthened my leadership traits and decision making at work. These bamboo products are sent to the POWER project’s prototype unit in Channapatna, over 100 kilometres away, from where it is marketed to different parts of the country.”
Women changing the world for better are hopeful because we are on our way forward to elevate the voices and achievements of women working towards sustainability, environmental conservation, equity and inclusivity. We are honoured to be sharing the remarkable real-life stories of these hardworking and resilient women working in POWER(Producer owned women enterprises) units, who are making an impact and inspiring so many women out there. It is rightly said that when women succeed, the world succeeds. Carrying forward the same spirit, we urge you to help us in supporting these women in making this world a better place to live.