Helping to eke out a living

In the absence of a consolidated government policy to help the huge number of orphans and widows in the valley, a local welfare trust is imparting training and providing raw material to orphan girls and widows to help them earn a living. Aliya Bashir reports.
To help orphans, widows and downtrodden women of the valley to earn a living, Shah-i-Jeelan Trust at Dalgate Srinagar imparts training to hone their skills in various arts and trades.
Fatima (name changed), 19, a resident of Chattabal works tirelessly, making different embroidery designs on a silk cloth.
She is the lone breadwinner in her family, who took up the responsibility of looking after her physically challenged mother and a young sister after her father died five years ago. The extremely poor family lives in a dilapidated house.
“I have to work very hard all day and to look after both household chores and to earn a livelihood. I had a dream to pursue education. Now I am trying to fulfill that through my sister, who is studying in a school,” she says.
Fatima is one among the scores of workers in the trust doing embroidery and manufacturing of bags.
The trust came into existence in mid 2007, and around 200 orphan girls were identified from different villages of the valley.
Chairman of the trust, Abdul Rehman Mir, says, “I believe that it is purely the duty of the society to help the orphans and other destitute groups by providing them shelter, hope, self-confidence and education. With this mission we took an initiative to start this trust.”
On the basis of their condition at home, more than 20 orphan girls and widows from the 200 identified were provided with an opportunity to earn their livelihood from a food processing unit -Zaffran Food Processing Project.
They would make pickles, juices, tomato puree and sauce.
However, due to lack of the FPO number (Food processing order), Rehman says, the project has been halted. The Zaffran project has so far produced around thirty four thousand bottles of different items.
“We are trying our best to get the FPO number and when we will get it, our all workers and machines will start working again,” he says.
In Shah-i-Jeelan trust, women are taught tailoring and other skills in its Crafts Training Centre. After getting the training they earn their livelihood either independently or in other factories.
“Our motive is to give them proper training and support them till they are on their own. We encourage them if they get some better job avenues and we had lot of young orphan girls who are now working independently after getting the training,” says Rehman.
Twenty year old Raahila (name changed) works in the trust to help her widowed mother. In 1997, her father, Muhammad Shafi Bhat of Dalgate was injued in a grenade blast and died of cardiac arrest after eight days.
“I had to leave my 12th class exams halfway due to deteriorating conditions at home. By working, I am trying to lessen some burden of my mother,” says Raahila.
From stitching bags to different designs of embroidery, Raahila is working very hard in the trust to get her elder sister educated, besides helping her mother in running the home.
Many other girls and women, working in the trust, are lone breadwinners of their families.
Parveena Sadiq of Meerut teaches both machine embroidery and hand-made designs in the crafts centre. The different skills include machine embroidery to cross-stitch embroidery designs and other fabric designs.
The centre has around five sewing machines besides embroidery machines and other requisite material.
Afrooza (name changed), 45, a widow who is working with bag-making unit says that each girl makes more than 80 bags per day. “We come here in the morning at 10 and leave at 5:30 p.m. Our needs force us to increase the speed of our hands. We hardly care and even when we are tired as we need to earn for our families,” she says.
The trust also conducts 40 days training course in crewel work in different areas. It also provides the orphan girls and widows with the requisite material for crewel work.
“When we conducted one of the workshops in Sopore, we got lot of good feedback as we helped them without shifting to Srinagar. The training can help them become self-reliant. We are trying to have such workshops in future as well,” Rehman says.
The trust also runs a home for boys, where around 15 orphans are being provided with boarding facilities and other expenses to complete their education in government middle school and in Khalifa School, in the vicinity of Khanyar.
“When we bought these young orphan boys from different villages in our small rented hostel, they were feeling alienated as they came from a totally indifferent environment. We are trying our level best to provide them with whatever is possible for us,” says Rehman.
Though the trust does not run any girls’ orphanage, Rehman says, the trust takes care of schooling expenses of many orphan girls.
To have access to the most downtrodden and people in need, the trust has more than 200 field workers in different districts of the valley, who identify them and suggest ways to help them earn a respectable living.
“Until now, we have covered Pulwama, Kupwara and Anantnag districts where we have identified some of the families who need help as they are left without breadwinners,” Rehman says, “I have seen people going without food. They take meals only if somebody provides them.”

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