Anita’s life in Kumaon during COVID-19

Unmarried by choice, which is unheard of particularly in rural India, Anita Arya has set a stellar example of independence and how economic empowerment can change a life so positively. A supervisor at Women on Wings’ partner Kumaon Grameen Udyog (KGU), Anita proofs her ‘never give up’ attitude also during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Journey with KGU
At the age of 21, Anita started as an employee at KGU who would just knit sweaters. But her dedication, hard work and desire to excel in her work paid off. She was promoted to a supervisor. Her main tasks are to train groups of women for their craft of knitting, supply raw materials and collect the finished products. She really enjoys interacting with the other women and forged strong relationships. Her economic empowerment increased, and she is able to look after herself and her family very well. Also her pride and self-esteem have increased, since at KGU she learnt so much about different types of wool, designs and other aspects related to knitting. This is what Anita shared with Seema Dawar, communications coordinator at Women on Wings, who recently spoke to Anita to learn how she is dealing with COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 hits
Thankfully in Anita’s village no one contracted COVID-19, however, because of India’s total lockdown which started in March, business was impacted. As necessity is the mother of inventions, the women also started making face masks. KGU supported in updating the artisans skills, using YouTube on their smartphones. This way, the artisans stayed safe by working from home and followed lockdown rules, but still were able to earn some income. After lockdown was lifted by end of June, the group activity of KGU was curtailed to a huge level. In one week, Anita could only train and meet one group, that comprised of maximum 4 to 5 women. Thankfully due to her tenure of working, she had savings which the family could dip into.

Economic empowerment sustained Anita
Anita’s positive attitude and hard work paid off and KGU paid her to support her looking after her family. Says Seema Dawar, communications coordinator at Women on Wings: “When I spoke to Anita about how she is coping during COVID-19, her never give attitude was so inspiring. I could sense the constant smile on her face during our conversation. She reiterated the fact that she is making a living doing something that she loves. Through this she is being able to take care of her own expenses and help her family. The earnings give her a sense of independence. Additionally, her biggest joy is the 300+ women that she has trained and helped reach economic independence as well. This all makes her feel so good.”

Women on Wings and KGU
KGU’s aim is to create livelihoods in a profitable environment for farmers and knitters. The Women on Wings partner produces jam, chutneys, herbs and spices, along with its knitting and weaving products. Since 2017, Women on Wings and KGU are collaborating on realizing their joint mission. Women on Wings’ experts have worked with the KGU management on a number of topics to support the social enterprise in its growth. In 2018, Women on Wings spoke to Anita and her colleague Kamla about how working at KGU had positively changed their lives.

Image @KGU: Anita Arya and a young family member