Poverty Alleviation and Women’s Empowerment in Western Orissa, India

by Ethos

Poverty Alleviation and Women’s Empowerment through Microenterprises – An Initiative in Western Orissa –

The state of Orissa in the eastern part of India is considered to be one of the poorest in the country. The population suffers from high morbidity due to under-nutrition, as well as endemic malaria and other poverty associated diseases. The area is characterised by high infant and neonatal mortality rates (100 and 115 per 1000) and the spread of HIV/AIDS is alarming. The literacy rate ranges between 63 % in rural areas and 84 % in urban areas and is estimated that 61% of the population lives below the poverty line and 30% is undernourished. 

The population is primarily engaged in agriculture and small scale commercial activities but there are few employment opportunities providing very low wages. As a result of poverty, the outmigration of workers is very high both for men and women. The conditions arising due to outmigration are numerous including poor working conditions, lack of access to education and health facilities, children dropping out from school, exploitation and other forms of violence and discrimination.

Ethos and our local partners Parinaama have been working in Western Orissa since 2010. So far we have been able to establish one sewing micro-enterprise in Sonepur that provides continuous employment to 25 women and ongoing training to 25 different women every quarter. Parallel to this, we have supported the formation of a self help cooperative (AAKRITI) and we are developing their capacity to manage their supply chain and market their products in the global fair trade market. Based on the success of this project, we have been able to acquired a second building in Raximunda and all the equipment to create a second micro-enterprise that could employ 75 more women. The same facility will also be used as a training centre where young people can be trained and equipped with different skills that can help them generate a sustainable income. 

Besides improving life for women and young people in the target communities, these projects directly support local weavers and local cotton and silk farmers by obtaining all raw materials directly from the producers in a fair trade way. Through this activity, local economy grows and many people in different communities are inspired to form local micro-enterprises and join AAKRITI cooperative with their creations. As a result, the community itself can reverse the trend of outmigration and experience growth and livelihood security. Conditions of life are steadily improving for all those involved in this project while the social impact can be observed in the way people, and local authorities support and promote our activities.

The success and growth of this project is a result of voluntary work from our local partners and our creative members. The buildings were provided and renovated by the District Administration of Sonepur and Balangir districts, the sewing equipment was donated by Topworth Foundation for Social Development and Singhdeo Foundation, while all other costs related to bringing everything together and starting up were supported by Lauritzen Fund.We are grateful to all who shared their skills and united their resources for making a difference in the life of people in Western Orissa 

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