Mission self-help groups

02 May,2021 06:46 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Team SMD

A filmmaker has created a digital platform to spread awareness about women’s self-help groups and their thriving businesses across India

Shivani Sharma

Prutha Bhosle, Jane Borges and Cynera Rodricks

Very early on, 26-year-old Shivani Sharma noticed the lack of marketing skills among self-help groups (SHGs) in India. After completing her William J Clinton Fellowship, Sharma got the opportunity to work with Fair Trade Forum-India (FTF-I) in Delhi as a filmmaker, but the Nashik-born wanted to step in and start an initiative to create awareness about SHGs.

And so, she started Project Omana. "It is an initiative close to my heart," says the Whistling Woods alumna. "During my stint in FTF-I, I realised [that] these groups are in dire need of digital marketing. My work with artisans of various member organisations helped me to understand the root cause of the gap between their products and the consumers. I felt the need to establish a digital platform, where we could showcase the extraordinary work being done by these self-help groups through the medium of short films, photo essays, blogs and vlogs."

Sharma says she has always been drawn to people*s problems and is a patient listener. "I feel this quality attracted people around me to sit down and share their problems or life stories in general. [At the time of] my fellowship, I started looking at people and stories through a different lens during my community service."

The mission of this project is to give a powerful digital platform to women*s self-help groups by sharing their stories of entrepreneurial success, hardships and challenges. It also aims to raise funds to set up or improve their small businesses by providing raw material and establishing new self-help groups for women living in extreme poverty in rural areas. "If one wants to do something that is satisfying and of great service to their community, Project Omana is the right place to be [in]. You can also help by identifying women SHGs from your communities and [putting] them in touch with Project Omana."
Get in touch: projectomana@gmail.com
Follow: @projectomana, Instagram

Stories of badassery

Sharmeen Sayed Dafedar

Sharmeen Sayed Dafedar started an Instagram page, 365 days of BAWG, this March to mark International Women*s Day. BAWG stands for BadAss Warrior Goddesses. "At some point in life you realise that your definition [of you] as a person depends on the people in your life and particularly the definition of you as a woman depends crucially on the women that have played a vital role in your life," says Dafedar. "So this page is trying to discover and feature such women and their stories of grit, chaos, struggle, work, art, passion, achievement, perseverance, celebration, diversity, friendship, their moments of notoriety and subverting norms, [which] ultimately challenge and reshape the meaning and role of the woman every day."

One of Dafedar*s first posts featured her grandmother, Salma, who is remembered as the ‘Iron Lady* of the family for her relentless spirit

The Mumbai-based architect shares that the page was an overnight idea and will feature any woman she knows whose story needs to be told so that it can create a positive impact on others. "An overarching objective of featuring the badass warrior women is to understand this network, connection and links of stories that come together to [form] a more palpable version of ‘the idea of woman*," she says.If you know a BAWG and want her to be featured on this page, DM Dafedar on Instagram.
@365daysofbawg, Instagram

Queens of the high seas

Sharanya Manivannan. Pic Courtesy/Catriona Mitchell

Who are mermaids? Are they the "half-woman/half-fish" creatures who have captivated our imaginations since time immemorial? Are they goddesses of the sea? Or, are they real people, navigating through sea and land? Sharanya Manivannan*s new illustrated book for children, Mermaids In The Moonlight (Red Panda), travels between myths, legends and history, to tell the story of mermaids, and this one, is fantasy at its best.

With this book, the writer and poet dons a new hat as illustrator. And she takes on the role with consummate ease. The book is the story of Nilavoli and her amma, who takes her to Mattakalappu lagoon, where "on full moon nights... you could hear mysterious sounds coming from deep underwater". Her amma said it was the mermaid singing. On one such night, during a boat ride in the lagoon, amma tells Nilavoli about the many kinds of mermaids that inhabit the ocean. What you read and see next, is a sheer treat for the senses.

There*s Yemanja, who swam across the Atlantic Ocean to comfort the people of West Africa, "enslaved and taken from their homelands on ships". There*s also the tale of the daughter of Ravana, who fell in love with Hanuman while he tried to build a bridge to rescue Sita. Amma also tells Nilavoli of the real mermen/maids - the Bajau Laut people of South East Asia, the women on Jeju Island, who dive to collect sea-harvest, among others. The lines between the real and the mythical are thus blurred. The book*s vibrant illustrations make the work unpredictable, and yet alive, just like the evocative prose.
amazon.in (Rs 200)

The art of painting with plaster

Swati Yadav*s sculpture paintings

Sculpture painting is the technique of carving flowers from plaster onto a plywood board. Swati Yadav, a homemaker in Pune, has mastered this art and is a certified teacher today, conducting workshops in different cities. "I was always passionate about art and craft, and before I tried my hand at sculpture painting, I was into making decoupage art. Two and a half years ago, I learnt sculpture painting from a Russian artist, Evgenia Ermilova, by attending her workshops in Delhi and I was really intrigued by this art," says Yadav.

Each small panel takes about a day to complete, the art requiring immense dedication and patience. The flowers are crafted with the help of a Russian sculpture paste available in different shades and with steel palette knives.