I have always heard of Amma’s charitable and humanitarian work and respected her for all that She has done for the society. However, Amritavarsham 60 was provided me with an opportunity to meet people whose lives she has touched and changed.
My first brush was with the volunteers of the AmritaSREE project, and the Women Emporwement (WE) activities of the U.N. registered NGO of Mata Amritanandamayi Math, Embracing the World (ETW). A quick snapshot to the activities of ETW gave me an idea of the extent to which Amma’s charitable projects have changed the lives of people around her. Started in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the WE now has aided around 100,000 women, through the development of 5000 self help groups. WE aims to equip unemployed and economically vulnerable women with skills to start small scale cottage industries, and help these women with vocational education, start-up capital, marketing assistance and access to micro-credit loans as well as micro savings accounts from government-regulated banks.
WE adopts a bottom-up approach with the courses and life skills being provided according to the proposals submitted by targeted communities. Once the vocational training is complete, the groups transition into a more autonomous companies with the AmritaSREE still assisting when required.
Walking into one such stall, started by a group of 25 women assisted by AmritaSREE and WE was an amazing experience. It was a handicrafts store selling bags, bedsheets, baubles and embroidery. I was astonished to discover that every little thing in that store was handmade by the women as part of the vocational training programme. They pool in money to buy raw materials on the wholesale market and sell their products at very reasonable prices.
These vocational programmes seem to have really changed the women who are a part of it. It seems to have given a boost to their confidence. Walking away from the stall, it was impossible not to notice the glow on their faces as customers gathered around their stall to admire their handiwork.
- Radhika Nair