Muslim Women's Training Centre

Day 8 – 6 March 2009

It was a later start than I am used to – Breakfast was at 9.30. I got up circa 8.00 a.m and I had a leisurely relaxing shower before breakfast – then went for a walk around the hotel and on the beach. It was here that I realised the error of my ways -many of my peers had been in the swimming pool from about 06.00 – I had missed the best part of the day -but I have to say that my sleep was enjoyable and my breakfast was even better.

After breakfast we left in our bus to visit The DROPSS Project – Development for Rural Depressed Peoples Service Society. This is a women’s Project headed by likeminded and socially concerned women who are working for the rights of women. In particular the organisation has been working with young Muslim women – albeit not exclusively; Christians and Hindus are also involved and included in the Project. I was stunned by the most positive vision of this project.. It was radical and successful. The project had fifteen paid staff and two volunteers. There are 300 beneficiaries – we saw a large group of adolescent girls training in sari making and literacy. The work of the sari-makers was outstanding – I will never look at a sari in the same way as before. Some of these garments take twenty days to produce – the needle work is painstakingly slow and detailed.

The activities carried out in the project include: Self Help Groups formation, Micro Credit linking, legal training, skill training for sustainable income generation, counselling, and marketing. Literacy is taught and the informal group work is very impressive. The achievements have increased the number of Muslim women and girls able to leave the home to work and to be educated – which is a huge achievement. In October of last year an UnLtd India Learning Journey Group visited this project and in the photographs recording that event all the girls hid their faces. Today they were completely open and relaxed.

After our visit we were given a lunch that could only be described as a banquet served on large banana leafs. The food was exquisite – why is it the poorest seem to be the most generous? We were then taken in an auto-rickshaw to the home of one of the leaders. An auto-rickshaw is a small vehicle with a small engine like a covered in motorcycle. The driver is in the front and two people can sit behind him in a semi open but roofed vehicle. I was terrified by this experience. Sitting in the back of a rickshaw racing another vehicle puts me in my “panic-zone” I survived – just!

The home of the community leader was lovely – we were given food and drink and I was deeply grateful for their most generous hospitality. It was now back to the Bungalow on the Beach Hotel – another two hour drive home- but it was really worth it – I would have almost walked here for the experience.

We arrived back at our hotel after dark – I noticed one of the Lutheran Churches in our street with a packed congregation and had its doors open so I walked back to that Church to observe the service. Once again women and men sat separately and the congregation enthusiastically sang hymns and listened to the sermon. I walked back t the Hotel in good time for our dinner which was delicious. I have eaten spicy (veggie) food now for over a week and I have not had any tummy problems whatsoever. This is testimony to the advice and preparation of the Learning Journey staff – both in the UK and here in India.

We have a day off tomorrow – we have decided not to go to the eye camp but to concentrate on reflection and relaxing after a busy schedule.

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