According to a progress report IDS recently received, the year began with test marketing of handmade bags at the annual meeting of Medico Friend Circle (MFC). The proceeds of the sale were almost 3,000 rupees; these funds are earmarked for future training. The bags were offered for sale on another occasion (a JSS workshop) and were received well there, too. Though the project lacks marketing and manpower, this test marketing proved that with some fine tuning, the girls can produce marketable products.
JSS (Jan Swasthya Sahyog) has been working for more than 15 years in Chhattisgarh in the area of health care. Their community health program targeted 54 villages, impacting a population of 33,000 people. Chhattisgarh is classified as a backward area. The tribal population survives on agro-forestry, and the average family income is around 10,000 to 13,000 rupees per year (about $150-$450). Seasonal migration to find work is very common. JSS began a vocational training project in 2015 with the goal of teaching 129 girls to sew. Beginning in 2017, IDS funding is supporting this program. Two master trainers will help the girls form groups and then link those groups to the market for their products, which will include everyday clothing as well as fancy bags and other handcrafted items. Part of the IDS grant will be used to pay the salaries and travel expenses of the master trainers; sewing machines and materials like fabric and thread will also be purchased with grant funds. The girls undergo month-long training in groups of around 20 in alternate months. They will receive a total of five months of intensive training. Fifty girls will be trained in multiple skills (hand embroidery, food preservation, e.g.), while the rest of the group will work on long-term production of goods.