Early December Shilpa and I had the opportunity to visit Philibhit, Uttar Pradesh, through Ms. Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister of Women and Child Development in the Government of PM Narendra Modi, to explore collaboration with the Ministry.
The Ministry has been working on a few projects to generate income for the rural women in the Philibhit area. The women have been trained in certain skills like growing mushrooms, handicrafts and products made of water hyacinth. Although in an early stage of business, we identified significant potential of growth and therefore sustainable work and income for women.
The potential is specifically in 2 product ranges. The first one is Oyster and button mushrooms. In a growth cycle of 45 days women grow the mushrooms in a shed in the village which is shared with other women. By dividing the tasks in close collaboration it is a very doable in terms of time involvement per day and also provides sustainable addition to the household income.
The other product range is based on cow dung. Yes, you read well. Dried cow dung in combination with camphor and samagiri is a natural mosquito repellent! There is a big market for natural mosquito repellent, especially in the cities, since Dengue is a growing problem. The other use for cow dung is making pots from it for nurseries so plastic can be avoided.
The level of innovation of the organization in combination with the solid training of women made us very excited. And the local people were also very excited about our presence. Through the Ministry we were interviewed by a journalist of a regional newspaper. Next morning Shilpa and I featured in an article in the newspaper: “With the support of the Netherlands, women in Philibhit will become self-sufficient.”
We look forward to the next steps and hope to reach out to many women that will indeed become self-sufficient.