Muskanben Vohara and her group of women weavers in Gujarat’s Anand district were overcome with worry when the lockdown was announced to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I look after eight members of my family,” said the 20-year-old on a video call from her village home. “All our work had come to a grinding halt. How would we survive?”
Luckily, Muskanben and her group had just been trained in digital skills by the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a membership-based organization that seeks to improve the lives and livelihoods of women who work in the informal sector, including seamstresses, artisans, vendors, and small and marginal farmers.Our Leelawati project proved timely. When we first launched it, traditional occupations were being buffeted by globalization, liberalization and other economic changes. Little did we realize how useful the training would become during the pandemic.Reema NanavatySEWA’s Director
Armed with the training, the group was soon able to share photographs of their products online, create Whatsapp groups of customers, and enable digital payments for purchases.
“Not only were we able to continue our work uninterrupted,” declared Muskanben proudly, “we sold off all our stocks of domestic furnishings.”
“Our Leelawati project proved timely,” explained Reema Nanavaty, SEWA’s director. “When we first launched it, traditional occupations were being buffeted by globalization, liberalization and other economic changes. Little did we realize how useful the training would become during the pandemic.”
While the trainings have enabled Muskanben and other crafts persons to broaden their customer base through Facebook and Instagram , most women have used their new skills to weather the pandemic’s disruptions by learning how to carry out basic online transactions.
Many of them now make cashless payments through PayTm, the BHIM App, and Google Pay rather than meeting people, handling cash and risking infections.
Mitali Prajapati, whose father runs a utensil shop in Ahmedabad district, remembers the difficulties they faced in the early days of the pandemic. “Our business stalled as my father could no longer travel to other villages to pay his suppliers,” she recalled. “The training helped me overcome my fear of losing money and now I make these payments digitally for him.” Image
Jayshree Gharoda from Gujarat’s Kutch district never used her mobile phone for anything other than calls. Now, this 30-year-old who lives with her husband’s 14-member extended family, pays all the household’s bills online.