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Self-help groups giving skill-based training to women staying in relief camps in Manipur

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NewsDrum Desk
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Imphal, Mar 31 (PTI) Several self help groups are imparting skill-based training such as making of incense sticks (agarbatti), candles and disinfectants to women displaced by the violence in Manipur and staying in relief camps to help them become economically independent.

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Kongkham Monica, a displaced woman in her early thirties from Serou area staying at Wangkhei Relief Camp in Imphal East district said she received skill training in making incense sticks, candles from a women self help group.

"We have been staying at this camp after our homes were burnt in May... and were dependent entirely on donation of others. We didn't have even ten rupees when we first came here. A women self help group Kangleipak Women Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd conducted a skill training programme and taught us how to make disinfectants, incense sticks, candles and ways of packaging so that we can use these skills to earn a living", the mother of three said.

She said the raw materials required to make these items are given by local volunteers who help in running the relief camps.

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The profits from the sales are kept by the displaced persons, Kongkham said.

"The skill training programme has helped us to earn a little money. Earlier when we came to the camp, we had nothing but totally depended on donation of others. But now even though things are still hard we are trying," she said, adding that a market shed was also built by a civil body to sell our items.

Similar skill training is being provided by 'Eta: North East Women's Network', a non-profit group, which conducted multiple training programmes to support displaced victims of Manipur violence.

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"After violence broke out, we conducted survey in 26 relief camps in Bishnupur district which is one of the worst affected districts in the state," Samom Beerjurekha, trustee of Eta, told PTI.

"We interacted with hundreds of displaced women to assess their skills and explore available opportunities for them to enhance their economic sustainability," Samom said.

She said "Ours is purely a voluntary enterprise. We tied with up individuals with specific handmade goods and took their service. After the programme, we provide the initial capital that is required for procuring raw materials from our own funds. We also urge the inmates to sell their products at their optimal best. However, we go a step further, and assist in selling the items." Eta has purchased at least 29 looms and distributed it to beneficiaries as part of its mission to improve women's empowerment, she claimed.

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A local volunteer, Babyna Maibam, at Palace Compound relief camp where a similar skill training programme was taken up said "Despite pleas from all, the feasibility of these women returning to their native places in Churachandpur, Moreh, Serou is very low. In the relief camps, there is plenty of time. The skill training by self-help groups has given a new ray of hope for hundreds of these internally displaced women. When these women return to their homes, they can use these newly learnt skills to earn a living in the future." A majority of over 50,000 internally displaced people are currently staying at relief centres across five valley districts and three hill districts.

At least 219 people have been killed in the ethnic strife in the state that started on May 3 last year after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while tribals, which include Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mainly in the hill districts. PTI COR RG

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