An all women NGO in Mumbai is taking employment right at the doorsteps of the rural women. Shyamla Nath, CEO, Women India Trust, talks to YourStory about the vision of Late Kamila Tayabji, founder of the organisation and various activities of WIT.
How did WIT come into existence?
It was Late Kamila Tayabji who established the organisation in 1968. She was an Oxford graduate and a practicing lawyer in Mumbai. During one of her visits to Bihar,
she observed that in many poor families women were totally helpless and financially dependent on men for household expenditure and well-being of their children. She returned to Mumbai with a vision to start a Trust, which will empower women from poor families and impart them vocational training to make them self-reliant. That' how Women India Trust (WIT) came into existence. Women were carefully chosen from different communities and families living below poverty line. She used to buy raw fabric and clothes and give it to women from different communities to stitch saris and petticoats, which were later sold in the market. The earnings were shared and distributed among these women communities. Tayabji was also fond of marmalade since her England days and realised that it was not available in India. She decided to teach these women communities how to make marmalade and, thus, after two years of its inception, WIT got into food products such as jam, marmalade, pickles, chutneys. Today, we have 28 products in different categories such as toys, textiles, and food products.
What were the challenges and obstacles you faced in initial years?
40 years ago, challenges were pretty much the same as it is right now-that is participation of women. Not many of them were willing to give more than two hours to vocational training programmes. Once they joined the course, there was no guarantee whether they will complete the course. Even today, when we call women, who work from their home, to our office to collect raw stocks of cloth for stitching, they are usually accompanied by their husbands. Now, to take vocational courses to their doorstep, we have been conducting 'Train the Trainers' programme for different women communities. The Trainer stays with the community and teaches them vocational courses at their homes.
Turning points in business
In mid- 1980's, we shifted our factory from Tardeo to Panvel in Mumbai and streamlined our activities into three main functions: Education, Vocational skills, and Income generation. We started a Nursing school, which has 100% employment, a nursery school for kids, and a daycare centre. Financially, our revenues increased drastically in 2007-08, after we started exporting our toys, textiles, and food items to Germany, UK, US, and Spain.
What are the differentiators of your business?The fact that many women from different communities have become financially self-sustainable! The earning capacity of the women beneficiaries have increased from Rs500 in 2002-03 to Rs3000 in 2007-08. The income can go up to Rs12, 000 for women who can work for 7-8 hours a day. Now, we just don't limit ourselves to women from poor families but identify women in need. For example, our zardozi embroidery work is done by sex workers rehabilitated by us. Newspaper bags are made by terminally-ill women patients. Our product quality is good and every process is done manually.
We want WIT products to be available on shelves in various retail outlets across India.
Key requirements for scaling-up the business
Marketers and distributors for our products!