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July 2012
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Catching up with The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley


In this blog, we bring you another update from the end of 2011 of our work in the Shiriti Kolabahan slum in Kolkata, India, from Avirupa Bhaduri, our Strengths Consultant who leads this work. It’s evident that the impact of strengthspotting and strengths-based approaches are working just as well in community development as they do in our work with organisations around the world:


“The CAPP initiative of The Strengths Project based in Shiriti, Kolabagan slum, Kolkata has completed its 3rd year. As we conclude our meeting in the last week of December 2011, we try to look back at what significant difference has been made in the last year. We also have a discussion on hopes for future and what activities we can undertake to look ahead.  


The prevalent thought was of wonder at how fast we have travelled together for 3 years already! Most agreed that the best part of TSP was the flexibility. The women were very happy about how they can now utilize the spare time in a positive productive way, without hampering their daily duties and responsibilities of family. When I asked about what was the best part about being associated with TSP the responses were varied. Some insisted that they felt empowered after learning a new skill (sewing) while for others our weekly meeting meant an opportunity to interact with other women and be part of a group with a purpose. Another common motivating factor was the appreciation from international community.


The difference that TSP has made is felt in the way they now think. The group initially was loosely formed and was not really cohesive. The women, although from the same neighborhood, hardly knew each other, also, due to cultural and intra community politics were apprehensive about each other. The feeling of distrust has gradually subsided over time. The most significant outcome of our open communication and strength spotting exercise is that they have become more sensitive and appreciative of each other. In fact they are now keener to point out each others talent and offer constructive criticism than pass the blame to solve problems.


A recent example: While doing the bed spread for Reena, we missed several deadlines. Sharmila usually takes most initiative, but she was busy with personal commitment in that month, so she could not manage to co-ordinate properly. In one of our final meetings when we were brainstorming about how to successfully complete the task on time, Sharmila kept on apologizing and blaming herself for the delay. But the rest of the group promptly came to her defense by pointing out all the good work that she had consistently done for the group, even admonishing her for self defeatist attitude and encouraged her to partner with Mousumi, who is also competent and has more time to spare to take up additional responsibility. Mousumi in turn declared that she will benefit by learning from Sharmila’s leadership qualities.


The activity that we are currently in the process of finalizing is itemizing, cataloging and deciding on the price of all the items of clothing produced by the group till date. Also in the agenda is to then formally organize the exhibition that we have been planning for ages now. We have to furthermore reach a consensus on what to do with the money obtained from the exhibition, and settle the share of each member.


One of the chief challenge faced by us is the trend of getting the girls married off at very early age and at very short notice. This is mainly due to the fact that the families are anxious not to let the daughters marry an unsuitable boy. Most girls tend to elope with local boys, who end up as unemployed, drunk and abusive partners. We have lost two of our active members namely Mou and Puja due to this phenomenon. Fortunately we have retained Tushi, who, even after getting married to a boy from different locality usually tries to attend our weekly meetings. She also is very responsible and seeks out tasks and completes them on time. I believe that speaks a lot about our journey so far and we are pleased to look forward to a rewarding voyage that awaits us.”


Further updates will follow in coming weeks from The Strengths Project and our work with the Women’s Sewing Co-operative we established in Shiriti slum.

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