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Dweepsree, the self-help group that helped women in Lakshadweep to become independent

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Agatti/Kavaratti (Lakshadweep), Feb 9 (PTI) Muslim women wearing a shawl around their heads, some wearing a 'purdah' and some in a more casual kurta and pyjama, come together to take care of an organic vegetable farm that they have been running for the last two years.

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A few minutes ago, the women were learning to make jewellery in a training programme jointly organised by the Dweepsree and Jan Shikshan Sansthan.

Women are active everywhere in the Islands of Lakshadweep.

No religious strictures are there to confine them behind the four walls of the houses and thanks to Dweepsree and some energetic officials of Jan Shikshan Sansthan they are now financially independent and contributing towards reducing the burden of poverty in the Islands.

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Dweepsree was launched in the islands in 2017, taking inspiration from Kerala's 'Kudumbashree', arguably the best run women's self-help system in the country with 33 lakh plus active members.

They even thought of naming it Kudumbasree, but then changed it to Dweepsree as it is formed in the islands.

The concept and its empowering nature soon attracted the women folk in Lakshadweep.

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"Till when Dweepsree was formed we mostly remained indoors. Taking care of our chores and sometimes trying to earn something by making snacks for shops. We did not even know what a bank was and how we could independently take care of my child's needs at school," Shaharumma, a Dweepsree member and Community Resource Person, told PTI.

We never knew it was our right to be outside our homes and doing things independently, she said.

"Dweepsree has instilled a great sense of equality and independence among women of Lakshadweep. We are now having several units that are self-reliant through their own micro enterprises," Roshida, chairperson of Agatti Dweepsree unit said.

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She said now women are aware about their rights and are more confident.

"Our idea through Dweepsree was women empowerment and poverty reduction, if not alleviation. We were first trained by the mentors from Kudumbasree in Kerala," Roshida said.

The Dweepsree units in the Islands also have micro-finance facilities with a low interest rate that comes to the aid of the members during financial emergencies.

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They are into cultivation, jewellery making, food and food processing, handicrafts and many other micro enterprises that provide a source of revenue for women in the Islands.

"Initiatives like Jan Shikshan Sansthan also help us in developing our skills," Roshida said.

Jan Shikshan Sansthan is a Central government project aimed at giving training for rural youths, both men and women, in various crafts.

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"We conduct regular training programmes for youths in all the islands in Lakshadweep. When we coordinate with Dweepsree, it helps us to reach to the womenfolk easier and to organise such sessions," Resmi, director of the Jan Shikshan Sansthan in Lakshadweep told PTI.

We also have several units that help the rural youth generate some revenue.

Dweepsree, apart from helping general women, has a special unit for the differently-abled.

"Our idea and effort are to bring the differently able to the mainstream and also to provide them an opportunity to experience something they have never experienced. Many of them are confined to their house and we take them out," Selmath, vice-chairperson and lead of the unit for differently able in Agatti said.

In Agatti, women are happy about the support they get from the men to pursue their interests and enterprises.

No religious sermons come in the way to allow women to do what they want in these Islands. PTI KPK HMP SS

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