Many factors contribute the health of the community, something FIMRC Ambassador Dorien Mul quickly learned on site at Project Kodaikanal. Through working with women in the communities surrounding FIMRC's project site in India, she discovered a common thread in barriers to health adherence - finances. Many women in the groups Dorien worked with knew how to care for themselves and their families through lessons they had received at FIMRC's Women's Health Group, but needed guidance handling their finances. From speaking to the women, Dorien heard that most were unemployed and stayed home to take care of their families while their husbands worked outside of the home. Dorien and FIMRC staff then decided that if these women knew a skill, such as sewing, and were able to sell their goods in town, they would be more financially independent and through Dorien's Women's Empowerment Program, more confident in making decisions about how to budget their earnings.
Since the start of the craft lessons in February, the Women’s Empowerment Group consists of seven dedicated women. As the lessons proceeded, the overall presence of the women showed their dedication. During the lessons, different types of crafts were being taught, focusing on sewing, stitching, knitting, crochet and patchwork. These basic craft skills provide a starting ground for all kinds of crafts - from simple fabric flowers and fabric buttons to basic flap purses, zip purses and stronger purses with foam lining. While using patchwork methods, the women learn how to make cushion and pillow covers and crochet skills are put in use for amongst others crafting doormats. The fabric that is used for the crafts consists of the left over fabric from tailors in Kodaikanal. The waste fabric that tailors normally discard, is collected by the women although the term "discarded" or "waste" does not do justice to the beautiful and useful pieces of fabric the women collect. With the left over fabrics from the tailors, which comprises of strong lining material, colorful cotton and silky sari bits, the women can create a diverse line of products.
In the month of February, some women received a few orders from Karen David, a local shop owner, after seeing their craft skills. In order to ensure the sustainability of the program and the dedication of the women, the earnings from the initial crafts will be put into purchasing sewing machines to expand the pieces created by the women to sell in town. In addition to the crafts, the women are learning valuable skills in business and budgeting so that they are better equipped for financial independence. We are excited to see what comes next from these determined and talented women and how the group continues to grow!