From selling kokam at Rupees three a kilo, I now make kokam juice, dry rind and kokam butter each of which commands a good price and adds to my income. I earn more than 100 times what I used to earlier! This is thanks to the training I got at Vanastree. I am now confident enough to negotiate on my own terms or refer back to the collective for information.
—Parameshwari Marathe, Vanastree member 2010
Empowerment often begins with providing a needy person or group with simple practical skills that can catapult them from being unaware and exploited to a state where they are aware and in control. It can also relate to gently facilitating a process where women learn to ask questions within and without, and feel a sense of identity beyond the social construct that they are a part of.
Vanastree has organised a series of skill share workshops for its members since 2003. These have ranged from seed saving and storage – to the value addition of garden, field and forest produce. In recent times, we have focussed on gender issues and building leadership skills in women.
Local and Practical
Most of the training sessions have had local resource persons, sometimes from within the collective itself. Costs have been minimal with participants often carrying their own lunch boxes, and the venue being in someone’s home, a village community hall, or the Vanastree office. Our learning and exposure programmes also include study trips and an annual excursion. These lively, and very dynamic get-togethers are also a time for the group members to meet each other and catch up with their garden and life stories!
This initiative offers women the ability to become leaders, if not at a community scale, at least in their own lives.
—Tina Van Roedern, Vanastree intern 2008