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Light of Hope – a Candle-Making Unit that lights the lives of rural women in Devanahalli

posted on 30th May 2022,

Light of Hope – a Candle-Making Unit that lights the life of rural women in Devanahalli

a livelihood initiative for women by United Way of Bengaluru and its CSR partner



 

Introduction

 

Lighting a candle is symbolic. It represents hope and positivity. A candle-making intervention has been set up in Devanahalli Taluk, Bengaluru Rural District of Karnataka to promote livelihood for women from the rural communities. This livelihood intervention is a part of ‘Rural Rising’ – an integrated rural development program of United Way of Bengaluru (UWBe). This intervention gave new life and hope to 40 women from 10 villages around Devanahalli. It is supported by UWBe’ CSR partner whose focus is on rural and skills development.

 

The candle-making unit operates from a village community center at Kadayarappanahalli in Devanahalli. The village community center has been converted into a training center equipped with machines, and resources. This space has been contributed by the Gram Panchayat who saw this intervention as a stepping stone to uplift the lives of women, especially from the Below Poverty Line and Schedule Caste communities. This case story captures the journey of the unit in the first phase- from January to March 2022. The second phase of the project is the planning process.

 

Participants

 

Women participants involved in this intervention were primarily homemakers who were either engaged in household responsibilities or helped their husbands in the agricultural fields. It would be inappropriate to say that they lacked aspiration or vision, but they certainly had not dared to dream for themselves. Through the conversation, there were moments of confession when some of the women participants shared about having the desire to help their families with some additional income and doing something for themselves too.

 

The first phase of the project started as a pilot in January 2022. Forty women between 18 and 45 years of age were identified for the livelihood intervention. A social infrastructure organization that works with children, youth, and adults in building their capacities, partnered with United Way Bengaluru and helped to successfully train the participants in two batches – morning and evening, thrice a week, based on the time and preference of the participants.

 

The training and skill development

 

The project methodology involved:

 

  • Need Analysis: Identifying the need of the rural community, and exploring suitable livelihood options based on the geographical relevance, availability of resources, and talent as well as the interests of the local people was the first step. Several livelihood options were identified including paper-bags making, production of the terracotta item, and candle making, to name a few. Candle-making was the first choice for the community members as well as had many advantages over other livelihood options identified.

 

  • Mobilization and Training: Women from the neighbouring villages were encouraged to enroll. They were mobilized through outreach activities such as the distribution of pamphlets; dissemination of the information through significant points of contact such as panchayat office, shops, and Anganwadi workers as well as through participation in the self-help group meetings. Participants were identified and trained for three months by experts from Unifiers. Participants were given online training (when the covid cases soared) as well as practical training. They learned to make an array of candles of various aromas, shapes, and sizes, using different kinds of wax and environment-friendly materials like flowers, leaves for decoration, and recycled papers for packaging. The price of the candles ranges between Rs 5 (tea candles) to Rs 3500 (special festive candles)

 

  • Exposure and Linkages: This opportunity provided new exposure to the participants. The training was not limited to skilling the participants on the art of making candles but they learn how to procure the raw materials, calculate the product cost, purchase the products and market them. The first batch of trainees has had the experience of selling their products in three exhibitions, visiting local markets for resources, and visiting luxury candle shops to understand branding, competitive pricing, and market opportunities.

 

Experience of the participants

 

For many, it was the first time they stepped out of their houses to pursue something for themselves. To be trained in a new skill, being a part of a social group, to be able to consider setting up their own business after the training, was a first-time experience for most of them.

 

Participants mentioned that once they finished their household chores, they did not have much to do and that this intervention helped them to be equipped with a special skill. "I am going to use the training to start a small business from my house. This will help me to support my family, and take care of the additional expenses, including the education of my children.", said Meena*.

 

"For me, this training was not just an opportunity to learn how to become financially independent but a matter of pride to be able to expertise in a skill which is not very common in the villages. Women learn stitching and tailoring and open small shops but the candle business is out of the box.”, said one of the participants.

 

Laxmi*, a young participant, though an undergraduate, did not have the option to go out of the village to work as it was against her father’s wish. This training was a good alternative for her to work from home. However, undergoing the training for three months, brought self-confidence in her. She accompanied her teammates in sales exhibitions organized in Bengaluru.

 

The business model

 

This livelihood initiative works as a cooperative model, where participants are trained for a stipulated period. Trainers are selected from the trainees, who train the next batch of participants identified from the communities. Thus the project is scaled and transferred to benefit the maximum number of women from the communities. Community trainers earn a monthly income. Participants also get an opportunity to earn during exhibitions when the candles are sold, and the profit generated from it is distributed among the participants. In a month, the unit has been able to sell candles worth Rs 60,000 by selling the products in three exhibitions in Bengaluru.

 

The next stage of the project will focus on hand-holding women to set up their businesses and on establishing market linkages.

 

The Private-Public Partnership

 

The intervention has been implemented by the joint efforts of Civil Society Organisations - United Way of Bengaluru and a partner NGO; CSR partner and local administration - the Gram Panchayat. In addition to the space for the center, the Panchayat also got a toilet and a storeroom constructed for the candle-making unit; and pays for electricity and water bills.

 

Strengths and Opportunities

 

  • Candle making livelihood intervention has opened a new avenue for women, which can boost the local economy
  • The scope for creativity in candle making is endless, scaling up is easy
  • Individuals can earn anything between Rs 5000 to 40,000 for a small scale set up at home, with easy availability of low costs materials; and low capital investment
  • It has a good market as candles are in demand for all kinds of purposes, and there is an exponential growth in demand for local and handmade products
  • The cooperative model has a cascading effect where training is given by trainers who are selected from among the trainees, who train and uplift the lives of other women
  • The intervention has the potential to show financial benefits once the participants can promote and market the products. Currently, they are being helped to set up their enterprises.

 

The handcrafted candles made by the local women under this livelihood intervention are as good as the branded ones. This intervention strengthens the clarion call for ‘Atma Nirtbhar Bharat’ and shows the way for women from rural communities to become self-reliant.

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