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Monday, Nov 10, 2003

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For a worthy cause

THE MEEK shall inherit the earth," proclaims an intricately cross-stitched banner. If this is a beatitude you believe in, the sale of handcrafted products organised by Women Endeavor is one you cannot afford to miss.

On till today at the Y.M.C.A., Narayanguda, articles on sale include embroidered linen, garments, sarees, hand woven bags, jewellery, pickles and papads, footwear and even hammocks. The exhibition-cum-sale showcases products made by the physically challenged, women from the lower economic strata, orphans and those made and marketed by the city's women entrepreneurs.

A non-governmental organisation started in 2001, Women Endeavor's (WE) primary aim is to empower adolescent girls and women economically. Working in collaboration with the Church of South India's Association of Christian Industries, WE provides skill-based training such as tailoring and papad-making to school dropouts, children of sex workers and landless labourers. Comprising a core group made up of professionals from various fields, WE is also involved in community development and extends loans to women entrepreneurs wishing to begin a cottage industry.

With WE as the umbrella organisation, various self-help groups from as far-flung places as Kanyakumari and Marthandam in southern Tamil Nadu are exhibiting their products at the sale. These include exquisite cross-stitch handkerchiefs, bookmarks and napkins by New Beginning, Palmaner, cutwork bed covers and sofa covers by the Embroidery Industry, Marthandam, and smocked kaftans and baby clothes by the Lace and Embroidery Industry, Kanyakumari.

A must-visit stall is the one run by the Bethany Colony Leprosy Association, which stocks bags and home linen woven by rehabilitated lepers. Beach bags, shoulder bags, sling bags, tablemats, mittens and aprons - you name it, they have it. Woven on both the broad and the tape looms, the colour schemes are incredible and as the enthusiastic salesperson will tell you, the designs are borrowed from Body Shop, U.K.

The T.E.L.C. School for the Blind, Tirupattur, is selling hand woven towels and bed spreads made by the visually-impaired while the Nambikkai Foundation, Palavoor has jute bags, palmyra jewel boxes, cotton pot hangers and baby and adult hammocks made by the hearing-impaired.

Hyderabad's own women entrepreneurs are showcasing a variety of sarees - Pochampalli, Narayanpet, Venkatagiri, gadwal, khadi and subtle ikkats. The thrust of these entrepreneurs who source their sarees from poor women weavers is to create new fabric identities, explore new markets and highlight the bright and beautiful cotton handloom fabrics.

Although these products are available in lifestyle stores across the country (most often the self-help groups are the suppliers) prices at the sale are more reasonable (Rs. 30 for a quilted wallet to Rs. 1200 for an embroidered bed cover) and what is more, one gets to buy the product directly from the producer.

The sale is on from 10 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. and is worth a visit for those who want to give their vote to women's empowerment.

DEEPA ALEXANDER

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