MUSE # 4 - Chinni Swamy, Founder of Purkal Stree Shakti
Photography by Hannah Scott-Stevenson
Chinni, can you tell us about your story and how 10 years on Purkal stree shakti came to be and evolve?
In the past 10 years Psss has evolved in many fronts. From being a small unit supporting 40 women it has grown into a registered NGO. When we started we were working from my home. Now we function from a full fledged workshop which makes it more efficient and professional. The number of women has grown to 170. The women have organised themselves into self help groups with elected leaders and their own bank account for their business. Thus the business of Psss is owned by these self help groups. The women are learning to manage their enterprise. The group leaders are consulted for every important decision connected to the business. We have developed a number products over the years. We now make quilts for adults and children, bags and pouches, kitchen and home decor products, garments for men and women and items for corporate gifting. The organisation is now evolving systems for smooth running the business.
How is International Women's day a important day for you and the women you work with?
The International Women's Day is indeed a very big day in our calendar. For the past few years we have been organising a sports day for the women to celebrate the occasion. This is the day for them to let their hair down and enjoy themselves. They understand that they are no less than anybody. This builds tremendous confidence and self esteem in the women.
Through your work can you tell us about the social impact initiatives and the effect it has on the lives of the women and their families?
To begin with our idea was to let the women earn economic independence. As the craft did not exist here we had to first train them. So, learning new crafts and training became an ongoing activity in Psss. Women who never had the confidence that they could learn anything are now ready to take on any challenging work. They can confidently meet customers to talk about their lives and sell their products. Many of our women now own smart phones and are active on Facebook and WhatsApp.
Regular workshops and lectures are arranged for the women touching varied subjects such as leadership, time management, dealing with customers, health and sanitation and yoga and its benefits. This kind of exposure widens their vistas. They begin to understand that the world is much bigger than their villages.
The nutritious lunch initiative of the society has resulted in much better health for the women. They fall ill less often. They are able work and earn better.
Our being a member of Fair Trade has taught them to respect the environment. Working with PYDS our women have campaigned for villages free of plastic. We succeeded to a great extent. Being economically independent they are respected better by the family and the community. They are now able to make decisions for the family. They understand the importance of education and make sure their children are educated.
Lastly, what does Balance for Better mean to you in light of this years International Women's Day?
These are my thoughts on balance. Balance has to start from within.When your being is in balance that means you are at peace with yourself and the world around you. There is no place for violence but only joy. If we can find balance in the world, between the sexes, between the needs of human beings and nature, between the power of one nation and others, the world will be a better place to be in.