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Women of Salcete race ahead in skill development

Diana Fernandes|NT

Women in coastal Salcete are in the forefront in empowering themselves with skills of their own. The Goa Panchayat Mahila Shakti Abhiyan (GPMSA) through its specialized courses is helping women around Benaulim- Colva-and Varca in sharpening skills to earn a living

Maria Fernandes (name changed) was left in shock after her husband passed away from a sudden illness a year ago. Being the breadwinner of the house, her husband would take care of all the household needs. But with him gone, Maria who had lived her life as a housewife had to fend for herself. Thankfully a three month tailoring course she had completed years ago came in handy and thus began her journey in stitching.

Today she’s the most sought after tailor in her village and charges anywhere from Rs 500 to Rs  1,000 for her services. Like Maria many women in Salcete have begun gaining skills like tailoring and more recently masala making and beautician training thanks to the Goa Panchayat Mahila Shakti Abhiyan (GPMSA), Salcete block. Though not considered a business initiative, the courses have helped women in gaining an economic benefit as well as respect in the society.

The proof lies in a recently inaugurated three week course in masala making and beautician at Benaulim where though only 80 participants would be allowed, 150 showed up. Nelly Rodrigues, president, GPSMA , said that, she found it difficult to say no to anyone but was happy with the outcome.

“Though we had gotten names for 80 women on the day many more showed up. It goes to show that they are willing to learn and put it to work. There was only one teacher for each course so we were forced to have two batches for each so no one is left out. The beauty of this course is that women can use their skills and set up self help groups of their own,” said Rodrigues.

At a time where the focus is put on youth empowerment, Rodrigues said women deserve to have their share too. She pointed out that, in a market made of  preservatives filled products, natural and homemade products are gaining ground.

“This is a need based skill especially in this day and age. Take for example the case with masalas. Those available in the market are usually filled with preservatives and overtime is an unhealthy option. But with fresh ingredients and smaller batches, these masalas can be made and sold either directly or through stores,” she said.

The skills have even come in handy in places like England where a huge Goan diaspora is present. Rodrigues said something as simple as a beautician course had come in handy. A simple manicure and pedicure has helped Goan girls earn a living in the foreign country.

Besides specific skills, the women have begun to gain a better understanding of systems prevailing in the state and how to speak. “I’ve seen the transformations of so many women who in the beginning didn’t even know how to speak properly, but today with capacity building courses, they are able to say what they mean and have understood the way one needs to work in the system,” said Rodrigues.

Though GPMSA was formed in 2008, it only began offering courses in 2016. So far it has provided vocational training to women in the tailoring, masala making, beautician, and flower and candle making. Ever since then they has trained more than 400 women from villages across the state thorough their respective panchayats.

The demand now is for a bakery course to be introduced, but funds to do so are low. “Every year the government gives us Rs. 20 lakh to organize these sorts of short courses. But very often it’s not enough.

The GPMSA in addition to capacity building courses has also conducted sensitization camps, workshops, conferences, gram sabha mobilization campaigns and exhibitions. The group comprises thirty one members who represent all the elected panchayat women of 189 village panchayats and two zilla panchayats.

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