Pune: The realisation of being uneducated hit 29-year-old Renuka Vetal hard when she was unable to get her son admitted into a good school through government's Right to Education (RTE). Vetal blamed it on her own lack of education, communication skills and confidence.
It was then, Vetal came across Abira Creation, a social enterprise based in Pimple Saudagar that works for women's empowerment. Abira Creation was co-founded by Anju Bansal and Priyanka Khandelwal in 2015. The company makes handcrafted jewellery, bags, clothes and other accessories. The profits are invested on skill training and upliftment of women working there who are called Abiras. Vetal was one such Abira, as is Laxmi Hartage, who joined to become independent and deal with husband's sexual harassment.
"I was heartbroken when my son couldn't gain the government benefits," Vetal said. "Dealing with financial instability was difficult as my husband also didn't have work. I felt handicapped because of lack of education and that I couldn't contribute to the family. I didn't want my daughter to be like me."
Working at Abira
"A lady in my area told me about Abira. After I started working at Abira, I realised my potential and capabilities. I took the three-month intensive course offered by them that teaches English, Mathematics, Computers and Skill Training. And then there was no stopping me. I could get my daughters admission in a good English Medium School through RTE. I was able to support my family financially. And the bigger achievement is the respect I hold for the family because of my work," said Vetal.
Laxmi Hatarge recently lodged a complaint against her husband on sexual harassment.
"Abira helped me a lot to gather self-confidence and stand up against wrong happenings in my life. We learn many things about legal aid, human rights and ethics here. I had reached a saturation point and I realised it was time to stand up, if not for me, at least for children who have been witnessing these wrong things," said Hatarge.
No Monday Blues
Abira is home to around 30 women associated directly while over 300 women residing in different slum areas who work from home. For the women working here, 'Monday Blues' do not exist.
"We dread holidays. Sundays are the longest days for us to survive. We will happily accept if asked to work 24x7. Whenever we get a long holiday, we plan picnics or go out together and spend some time with each other," said Shakuntala Palapure, who is associated with Abira.
The owners of Abira believe that it is important to empower mothers as their role is vital. It imparts education in English, mathematics, computer, legal studies, banking, health and sanitation.
"Our target women are mothers in the age group of 20-40 years old. They play a significant role in bringing up their children by moulding their thoughts. When these mothers learn the basics of English or computer, they get a sense of confidence to help their children in studies," said Khandelwal.
"Women are always taught to be homemakers and not career makers. Many fear to start learning or making their careers after a gap. I wanted to enlighten women by telling them that age is no bar to start a new beginning of achievements," added Bansal.