Capp’s five-step approach to strengths-based recruitment

Click here to find out more about how Strengths Selector can solve your recruitment challenges...

Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address:


 Subscribe in a reader

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Shiriti slum

The Strengths Project: Strengthening Tea Plantation Workers in Alipurduar, West Bengal

Posted by: Alex Linley & Avirupa Bhaduri

 

In her first post of 2013, Avirupa updates us on the New Year celebrations in Kolkata, while also recognising how the horrendous rape in Delhi, which had made the international news, also had its own reverberations in Kolkata.

 

Avirupa then goes on to share her experiences of working with tea planters, enabling them to realise more of their strengths and apply these to the pressing challenge of getting better medical provision for their work. To see how she did this, read on…

 

“A New Year is ushered with celebration in Kolkata. Park Street, the erstwhile posh commercial hub of the Raj, retains it’s charm even now, each year it is decorated with fairy lights, people throng the road at midnight, cars honk loudly, drunk party crowds erupt with celebration, confetti, cheer, greetings and the like.

 

This year though the mood was less cheerful, a couple of week earlier a girl in Delhi was brutally raped, and left to die, following which the youth of India took the capital by siege demanding justice, safety for women. The repercussions were felt in Kolkata too. People were scared to venture late at night.

 

In fact, the Delhi rape case had made a mark at every sphere of life, I was surprised to see the concern in Mousumi, Arpita and Sharmila. Mousumi expressed deep anxiety, since she was the mother of a 9 year old girl. Women and safety was all we could talk in the 1st week’s meeting of the New Year. I was interested to know their take on the safety of women in Shiriti. The answer came as a surprise.

 

Although Shiriti is a slum, alcoholism, petty politics, clashes between groups were not uncommon, in fact, when I visited Shiriti as an outsider in the initial days, I felt uneasy. However the women said they still felt safe within the community than outside, even though the vices exist, and they make sure to reach home by evening. They knew that they would not be assaulted by local boys, rather they said it was more unsafe for young boys, as the chance of being involved in drug, alchohol, gang war is more likely.

 

I found the answer pretty intriguing, wondering where their strength of faith came from; perhaps a sense of community, a social safety net was active.

 

Next week I was scheduled to leave for Alipurduar, for the last of the leadership workshops. The NGO project was to wrap up by this month. They’ll resume their good work once the project renewal is sanctioned. As I boarded the train I felt a little sad, as I was getting attached to the workshops. Anyway the train left Howrah station at 10p.m. It was to reach Alipurduar, the eastern border district of West Bengal by noon.

 

Our session was to begin from 2p.m. on the 1st day. We woke up at 8a.m. to find the train stalled at Maldah, a station which we were supposed to cross at 4a.m. Finally the train left Maldah at 9a.m. We were much tensed as the delegates would reach the venue from several places; the whole time during our journey was spent on co-ordination, battling a terrible mobile network problem.

 

I was delighted to find the strengths of Detail and Efficacy in my colleague, who managed to keep the organiser abreast of our situation and all the time assuring of a great workshop, whenever we reached them. We reached Alipurduar at 6p.m. A car was waiting at the station; we drove for 20min after which we reached the forest checkpost of Buxa Tiger reserve. Our venue was inside the Tiger Reserve, at No. 28 Forest Basti.

 

We had to take special permission from the ranger as entry was restricted after 6p.m. I was tensed as the car sped through the only motor-able road inside pitch dark forest, all the while the boy who was our escort kept telling stories of how he, and his friends and family have encountered herds of wild elephants, and sometimes even tigers!

 

Anyway we reached a clearing amidst the forest braving the jungle and I felt relieved to see lights and hear human voices. As we got down we saw 30 delegates sitting and waiting for us in the cold. There was electricity, but due to low voltage we could hardly see each other’s faces. The organiser held a small ceremony to felicitate us with locally made shawls.

 

We had to start immediately, so I began with the concept of introduction by strength. I briefly explained what strength is and introduced myself with my strengths, and asked my colleagues to do so, followed by the delegates.

 

The delegates this time were all tea plantation workers from local tea estates. They are a unique community, their problems and even their ethnicity is different from all other under-privileged people that I have worked so far. The hill people have traditionally been considered “other” by the majority of Bengalis’ and vice versa. So a lot of time was spent in breaking the ice.

 

It was late and we were tired after the journey but as night progressed we found ourselves in conversation, over a lot of issues. There were a big group of youth, who were quite enthusiastic about accepting new ideas. They were most responsive when I talked about strengths. Then I talked to them how in other workshops people initially skeptic about the idea have later realised the strength of strengths.

 

I thought of implementing what worked best last time, i.e. staging a skit performance, to mock tackle a real issue (unavailability of medical facility in the tea gardens) by banking on group strengths. This time also 4 groups were created, given time to discuss and form a strengths bank, following which they will stage a plausible solution to convince the managers/owners to give them their rightful medical provision.

 

This worked wonderfully well, each group tried their best and it was heart-warming to watch their pent up anger frustration being given a voice, with logic, earnestness and resilience. After the performance spontaneous animated discussions followed which continued till dinner was announced and spilled over.

 

A number of young men and women came up and asked about Capp and my role. It was then that I once again found the conviction to spread the message of strength, seeing how it impacts and changes the lives of all people.”

 

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – December 2012 Update – Part 1

Posted by: Alex Linley & Avirupa Bhaduri

 

In the December report from Shiriti slum in Kolkata, India (which we will post in two parts – this is Part 1), Avirupa describes Christmas in Kolkata, and sets the scene for another strengths-based community development workshop that she developed in Baghmundi, a town in Purulia, one of the poorest districts of West Bengal. As Avirupa reports:

 

“December, the last month of the year, and a month of festivities. Although Christmas is essentially a Christian religious ceremony, we in India have somehow internalized it, in true spirit of our fabled “synthetic culture”. To most Indians, especially for Bengalis, it is a holiday which has curiuosly become associated with cake eating. Winter in the subcontinent is fairly warm, the average temperature lies between 13 to 15 degrees.

 

When I went to Shiriti on 6th December I met only Sharmila, the mothers were busy preparing their children for terminal exam. We spoke for a while and I told Sharmila that I’ll take the last week off for annual holiday. She was happy for me and asked me to call her before coming next week, so that she will inform the others about the time.

 

It so happened that I got invited for taking another leadership workshop by the same NGO, apparently propelled by the success of the previous ones. I was very happy to be part of yet another enriching experience, so readily agreed. But this time the workshop was to be held at Baghmundi, a remote village at the heart of Purulia district in West Bengal. The workshop schedule is for two days and we have to travel by train for a night. I had to therefore cancel the next week’s meeting at Shiriti.

 

So, on 12th December I boarded the train from Howrah station along with representatives of the NGO. Next day early morning we reached Borabhum, the nearest railway station to Baghmundi. A jeep was waiting for us at the station, and we started our onward journey. The road from the station was suprisingly great, largely devoid of potholes and bumpy ride, which is common in almost all roads including the highways of West Bengal.

 

On hearing me complement, the local representative proudly announced that this road was in fact built by a Japanese construction company, thus the quality assurance. So after about half an hour, we reached the main market area of Baghmundi, from there we took a left turn and as expected the road became non-existent. We continued with our journey through what seemed like village courtyards, the jeep manouvering with supernatural dextrousness amidst mud, washclothes, children playing, and mounds of paddy kept for drying in the sun.

 

After this adventure we arrived at a big iron gate. A perfectly urban looking three storied pucca (made of brick) with a lovely garden front. This was such an exceptional sight that the city girl in me almost gasped in wonder. I eventually learned that this building was built and manintained by the Lions Club and acts as a social community centre and a place for convention of various social service activities, both government and non-government organizations. We weare served a cup of steaming hot tea while we waited for the delegates to arrive from nearby villages across the hills, as well as from the adjoining district of Bankura.

 

A little backstory of the area would be helpful here. Purulia and Bankura are two of the poorest districts of West Bengal. The soil in these regions is not as fertile as the rest of the state, the rivers are seasonal, i.e., they flood in monsoon and dry up in summer and winter. The majority of the population is composed of tribal peoples, one of the most marginalized communities in our country. Their language is Santhali and even when they speak Bengali, their dialect is quite unique.

 

In recent times these areas have been riddled by Maoist insurgencies, which allegedly is a fallout of the lack of development initiative taken by the government. As a result, there is a heavy police and military presence in the area, and the common people are the worst sufferers.

 

In this context, we were poised to hold the workshop to empower the villagers with positive life skills. The first day’s workshop started late as the delegates, many of whom cycled miles crossing the hills to the venue, arrived close to noon. On humanitarian grounds, after a brief introductory session, the lunch break was announced. Post-lunch, one of the key speakers takes an exhaustive session on “awareness of laws and  rights”. It’s winter, so it gets dark early and there’s not enough provision of electricity, thus we concluded the day.”

 

On day two, we’ll learn more about Avirupa’s strengths session with the delegates. This follows in Part 2 of this blog…

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – August 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

This month Avirupa brings us updates for how the weather has been affecting the people of Shiriti slum in the month of August, combined with the excitement of preparing for the annual exhibition, where the Shiriti Women’s Sewing Co-operative will showcase their products:

 

“Erratic weather finally took it’s toll in August. Inconsistent rain, high humidity and hot sun coupled with the dirt accumulation in our city resulted in a number of tropical diseases transmitted by mosquito, the most threatening being dengue fever. It has affected more that thousands, with the official death count at 5. It is serious enough to be considered as epidemic.

 

The mood at Shiriti is sombre, the women are worried about their children. I bring a ray of good news; the annual exhibition of a reputed Govt. aided women and child welfare organisation was scheduled for 3 days in September, 10th to 12th. I had asked one of my aunts, who is a freelance social worker, to book us a table. However the cost of one full table came to Rs.1500, but we have only Rs. 800 in our common fund. So I thought of inviting a cousin to share half a table to sell home-made snacks. That brought down our investment cost to Rs. 750.

 

Smiling faces greet me and we soon get busy discussing what needs to be done to spruce up our humble collection. Robert had donated some fancy ribbons, buttons and sequins which were lying idle all these while. Mousumi had the bright idea of using them to make our batch of baby pinafores look pretty. The petticoats were our prized items, but even they need to be washed and ironed, as they have become dusty and lost the sheen of newness.

 

In the second week, we were delighted to see Sharmila back resplendent with vermillion and “shankha-pola” (a pair of white and red bangles, traditional symbols of hindu married woman) she happily joined our planing process offering valuable suggestions off and on. The women took home the entire collection in parts, each making an entry in the register for the number of clothes that she would be responsible for. The plan was to share the load of washing, so that each woman will be comfortable washing a few clothes with their own laundry.

 

The next week Mousumi was ready with her chore but none of the others could complete. So we decided to give one more week for washing following which the primping work would start. On 23rd August all but Arpita were ready with freshly washed and ironed clothes, so we sat down to decide on design ideas. The cut and fit of most of the clothes were fine, we left it to Sharmila to put the lace on baby suits. The energy and excitement was palpable, finally our much awaited exhibition looked like a reality.

 

In the last week we gathered together to finalize who will share which responsibility especially about time, since someone from our group need to be present at the venue at all time during the work hours for 3 days. This was cause for much debate, and it remained unresolved, but we were confident that we will somehow find a workable solution in the end.”   

 

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – June 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

In her post for the month of June, Avirupa shares with us the long-awaited arrival of the monsoon season, although this also brings with it its own challenges. Further, the changing political situation in Kolkata is having its own impact on Shiriti slum and the activities of the Women’s Sewing Co-operative:

 

“Monsoon finally arrived in the second week of June much to the relief of one and all. Every weather though brings forth its share of tribulation. Rain is welcome in our country, since prehistoric times, as ours is a primarily agriculture based civilization. In villages in fact the first day of rain is celebrated through rituals. But in urban shanties, the romanticism of rain is but a distant memory.

 

Shiriti, for example, gets water logged if rain lasts for days. Filth, animal waste, overflowing garbage, plastic packets, all clog the open drains, clothes refuse to dry, children fall sick, and water gets contaminated. Water-borne diseases are very common during this season.

 

But our month started on a high note as all of us were quite upbeat about the successful completion of the costumes in the 1st meeting of June. On the second week Sharmila informed that she had inquired about the price of covers for sewing machine. The local carpenter has given an estimate of about Rs.300 per machine. This seemed a lot of money for our paltry fund. The collective decision was to start with two and then make the rest one by one, subject to availability of funds.

 

The next week however turned out to be difficult. A new problem has cropped up. As we approached the club, a local youth came over and wanted to talk to me. I was surprised as I haven’t met him before. He introduced himself as Tinku, member of the new club committee. He asked me to meet them, to discuss the status of our sewing group. He sounded self-assured, even to the point of being arrogant, and I had a feeling he wanted some kind of monthly donation for the club, if we wish to continue with our activity in the club premises.

 

I immediately called Babunda, our ally and friend, the erstwhile chairman of the club committee. He informed that apparently the old brigade has been asked to leave in the last committee meeting. This change of guards was anticipated, following the state elections. The old members were veterans, all supporters of the communist party, which was in power. The new members are relatively young boys, eager to assume position of authority, owing allegiance to Trinamul Congress, the party in power now, in the state.

 

I told him that the boys hinted at donation, or rent, as they liked to put it, for keeping the sewing machines in the club, and for the women to assemble on Thursdays. He advised that selected members of our sewing group should accompany me when they call for the meeting and explain that the sewing project is for the benefit of their own sisters and mothers. We then called for an urgent meeting the next week to talk about the impending issue.

 

Sharmila, Mousumi and Arpita all wanted to be present when the boys called us. They added that if it seem unlikely that they become convinced that it’s for their family’s interest and relent, then we should offer a small amount as rent, which we will then try to generate each month through work, as a compulsion. This would be the eustress we need to get work.

 

We were all happy to garner some positive targets from a negative situation. With this encouraging parting promise we concluded the month, with hopes high for the future.”         

 

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – May 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

In her May update, Avirupa shares with us the horrendous heat challenges in Kolkata during the month, but also a great opportunity that she was able to create for the Women’s Sewing Co-operative in Shiriti slum:

 

“This month has been by far the cruellest of summer in the last 25 years. Temperatures have soared to maximum of 40 degrees C (i.e. 104 degree F) and refuses to budge for weeks. This is 5 notches higher than normal. Everyday the newspapers are bearing stories of lives lost due to heat stroke. So far 25 deaths have been reported in the state of West Bengal alone, out of which 7 people dropped dead in the streets of Kolkata.

 

It hasn’t rained in months. Met office has not been able to give any hope for monsoon even in the 1st week of June. What is making lives unbearable is the humidity quotient which is about 70% on an average. This means sweat is draining out precious body fluid, thus everyone is suffering from dehydration.

 

Life at Shiriti is worse due to frequent power cuts, scarcity of water, as there are not enough public running water taps in the locality. Plus most of the roofs are made up of tin or asbestos, which gets heated up abnormally during the day. We could not conduct more than two meetings this month because of this unbearable weather condition. A heat wave warning is announced, and repeated announcements are made in media, asking residents to remain indoors between 10a.m. to 4p.m.

 

We had to put our plan to transfer materials on hold, as none of the boys can be found during day, and in the evenings the women are too busy to meet. However, a new opportunity has suddenly landed with us from unexpected quarters. I am involved in the costume department of an upcoming Bengali feature film, and for that I had, in my capacity to allot some of the costumes to be tailored and embroidered.

 

Instantly I thought this would be a fantastic chance to offer some work to the Shiriti women’s group. To this effect, on 17th May, I took 3 Kurtas to the women and explained what needs to be done as per the designer’s requirement. When they learnt it is for a film, naturally everyone was very excited. Mousumi junior, who happened to be present wanted to know the name of the actor who’ll wear the kurtas. We had a laugh over it.

 

Sharmila Mousumi got busy deciding on responsibility chart. Arpita wanted to buy the materials. The shooting is to start from June 11th. So deadline was fixed at 1st June. On May 24th when we assembled I found one kurta was ready. The second needed finishing touch and the group was yet to start on the third. By 1st June two kurtas were completed, the women complained of the heat and power cuts for the delay of the third. Finally on 6th I got the third.

 

The quality of the kurtas were very high. The film unit gave hearty compliments to the women, which I later conveyed to them. They were delighted to get a job which was fun and were hopeful to get other such works in future. This project lifted their spirit and gave them hope for the future through the sewing co-operative.”

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – April 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

With our April update from Shiriti slum in Kolkata, Avirupa tells us about how the women of the Sewing Co-operative negotiated for the chest in which they could keep the valuables of the Sewing Co-operative safe:

 

 “April marks the end of the Bengali calendar. Throughout Chaitra, the last month of the year, the shops traditionally offer huge discount, known popularly as “Chaitra Sale”. We decided to take advantage of this. So in the first Thursday of April, Sharmila, Arpita and I ventured out in the local market on foot to buy the chest. Mousumi could not accompany us being down with fever. Our effort paid fruit. After scanning different shops we were easily able to get the chest @ Rs.300, instead of Rs.500 as anticipated. This was our moment of victory. So we decided to celebrate with ice lollies, from roadside.

 

We had a wonderful fun time, which brought out the witty side of Arpita. While haggling about price, we were inquiring about the durability of the chest, when Arpita quipped that the chest looked like it will outlive the shop owner (who incidentally was a chirpy old man). We took turns to carry the heavy chest on our way back. This time we took an autorickshaw to Shiriti. The women decided to inaugurate the chest on poila boishakh, the Bengali New Year day, since it is considered auspicious. The chest was temporarily kept in Arpita’s custody.

 

On the next week Arpita and Sharmila decorated the chest with regilious symbols with vermillion mark to offer a small puja, before we start transferring our belongings. Poila Boishakh being a traditional holiday, women of the house go for spring cleaning, children wear new clothes, special meals are cooked, and the day is generally utilized by spending quality time with family and friends. So we did not organise any meeting that day, just exchanged greetings and left early as the women had to attend to their respective homes.

 

On the third week we encountered another problem. The boys in the club were reluctant to part with keys of their cupboard as the secretary was not present, and money collected as donation for a football match was kept inside. Our materials and registers are kept in the cupboard, so we could not transfer them that day. We then brain stormed how we can avoid such a situation, finally it was agreed that by April we will transfer all out material and documents from their cupboard, and we will keep everything in the chest, which will be kept locked.

 

The group settled on the decision that one key will remain with me, while the other will alternate among members. The chest however has to be kept within the club. So we looked for a safe place inside. We found that there is a built in cement shelf high up the wall, which is empty. That became the place of choice. We were happy to resolve the problem, in this way we can minimize our interface with the boys, and it will be less bothersome on their part to hand over the keys every time.

 

The carpentry work though needed more time. Firstly we did a rough budgeting. We had in the collective fund (generated by the sale of bags to CAPP) about Rs.800, out of which Rs. 300 was used to buy the chest. We have about Rs.500 to make the wooden boxes for machine cover. This is not enough, so Mousumi suggested that we start selling our petticoats to interested customers, including members of the group, without waiting for an exhibition.

 

Since petticoats were in high demand and in fact a lot of local women have expressed their interest to buy those, we indeed have a ready market. This was a very practical proposal and everybody voted for the motion. Thus we now have a financial plan ready to fund our “ensuring sewing machine safety” project.

 

This is what I call a classic example of strength-based sustainable development!”

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – March 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

Continuing our updates of our work through The Strengths Project with the Women’s Sewing Co-operative that we established in Shiriti slum, Kolkata, India, Avirupa is pleased to share the news from March this year:

 

“March is the time for “Holi” or “Dol” in Bengali. It’s the festival of colour celebrating the colours of nature in springtime. The weather is generally pleasant, but can get quite scorching for days culminating in “kalbaishakhi” (norwesters) thunderstorm accompanied by spells of showera.  Although people welcome “kalbaishakhi” for bringing temporary relief, in Shiriti it is anticipated with apprehension, as it results in uprooting trees, disrupting roofs and more often than not, long hours of power-cuts, as illegally hooked electric wires get tangled and rip. We had to cancel two meetings in the beginning of March due to the “kalbaishakhi” that followed “Dol”.

 

In the second week when we assembled, Shyama had already made a survey of sorts in the local market for the price of steel chest. A medium sized chest was estimated to cost between Rs.400 to Rs.500. Subsequently Arpita volunteered to take the responsibility to buy it, but she wanted at least one other member to accompany her. It was decided that we will be ready with the chest by end of March.

 

But we had a different problem at hand now. With the change in political party in the state, the local club committee has also revised, making the older lot, with whom we were acquainted with, being replaced by a new group of people owing their allegiance to the new ruling party. The women said that the boys now were not careful about our machines kept in the club, and indeed we saw that the four machines were dusty, some small parts missing.

 

We figured the best way to ensure that we maintain cordial relationship with the boys and make sure that they do not mess with our machines would be to offer them a token gift. The women decided to make a cover for the carom board which is kept in the club, by stitching scrap left over fabrics.

 

Next week we were almost ready with the carom board cover, but none of the club members were available to receive the gift. I asked the women to inform the men in advance, so that we can hand over the gift next day. The chest buying project however received a setback because of lack of coordination between the women. We decided to keep the target for the end of March as final. So dialogues were initiated between the women to find out the best solution. We talked about how united in our mission we were to buy the chest in the interest of our group. Each of them then narrated to what extent they can adjust time with the other women, so that they can go and buy the chest together.  Finally Sharmila agreed to take responsibility to see through the process with Arpita and Mousumi as companions. We were happy.

 

In the last meeting of the month we gave the carom board cover to the boys, unfortunately the men of the club committee were busy in their workplace. The boys were delighted with the gift and promised to take care of the machines henceforth. However we felt something more was needed to protect our precious machines. Mousumi, Shyama, Sharmila and I came upon the idea of manufacturing little plywood box covers for the machines. Tushi gave a clever suggestion to add hatch bolt with a lock and key to make safety a certainty.  We were enthused at the idea and the women said they will ask for price quotes from their neighboring carpenters.

 

Thus in April we had two projects: i) to finally buy the chest, and transfer all our products to it, before we organize a sale and ii) to scout for the cheapest quote for making safety boxes for the machines. With these dual agenda, we march onto April.”

 

Further updates from The Strengths Project will follow shortly. Watch this space!

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – February 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

We’re pleased to bring you another update as we catch up with what has been happening with The Strengths Project in Kolkata, India. This update is from earlier this year – February to be precise – and over the coming weeks we will catch up with updates to the current day. Here is what Avirupa has to report from February:

 

“It’s springtime in Calcutta. Though winters are quite pleasant in this part of the world, yet Bengalis are forever hostile towards any reading of the mercury below 23 degree Celsius. So once “Poush Shankranti” marks the official beginning of spring, the mood is of relief and joy. According to the Bengali calendar poush is the last month of winter, and shonkranti i.e. the last day of the month is auspicious.

 

Traditionally the day is celebrated by “nabanna” festival, to observe thankfulness for the harvest of new crop (chiefly rice). Delectable rice based special deserts of the season called “pithe” are made in every home, quality and quantity varies depending on economic condition of the family. So when I showed up in Shiriti on 16th February, the day after “Poush Shankranti” for our Thursday meeting, I was treated with a bowl of puli pithe, prepared by Mousumi.

 

On that sweet note we started our assembly, with the agenda to itemize, catalogue and decide on the price of all the items of clothing produced by the group till date. The clothes were in possession of different people, some of whom have left the group since, so the first task was to collate all the items. We looked up our register to identify the people and every member took it upon herself to get the materials from each one of the absent people.

 

The next week we had almost all the items in hand. But the condition of the lot was deplorable. Most were dirty,  some were moth eaten, and stained, due to lack of proper storage facility. So Mousumi, Sharmila and Shyama divided the lot among them and took home for washing and ironing. In the light of this problem, we decided to buy a trunk, and packs of cheap insecticide to keep all the materials together. The money for the trunk was to be provided by our group fund. 

 

In subsequent meetings we then made the following list:

Shirt (boys) 4 pcs.

Shirt (girls) 7 pcs.

Short kameez (girls) 6 pcs.

Baby pant suit 11 pcs.

Petticoat (white) 7 pcs.

Petticoat (colored) 7 pcs.

 

While we were making the list, a few local women dropped by, and offered to buy items. The demand for petticoat seems to be quite high, followed by baby clothes. Many of our members also were keen to buy our own products, esp. petticoats.

 

When we sat down to decide on the price, a couple of issues came up. The women were frank about the poor quality of cut and fit of their product, as they were made when they were students. The fabrics were donated by CAPP and Robert, so cost of production is very low. Based on that logic, we decided to keep the price of individual items lower than the market value of similar products. Another bright idea suggested by Tushi, was to offer a discount on the less popular items, to attract consumer. Thus price was fixed at:

 

Shirt (boys) 4 pcs @ Rs. 50/ pc. Less discount 20% Final price: Rs. 40 per pc.

Shirt (girls) 7 pcs. @ Rs. 40/ pc. Less discount 25% Final price: Rs. 30 per pc.

Short kameez (girls) 6 pcs. @ Rs. 100/ pc. Less discount 30% Final price: Rs. 70 per pc.

Baby pant suit 11 pcs @ Rs. 30/ pc.

Petticoat (white) 7 pcs @ Rs. 100/ pc. Less discount 10% (only for stained pieces) Final price: Rs. 90/ pc.

Petticoat (colored) 7 pcs @ Rs. 100/ pc.

 

A surprise awaited us on the last meeting of the month of February. On that Thursday, Mou, our one time active member joined us again. She is now married, and pregnant, and had come to visit her mother. We had a fun time with her, the other women joked and teased her, and she was chirpy and lively like before. She brought with her the clothes that were in her possession.

 

She said as soon as she heard that we were collecting the items, she on her own came to submit the stuff which she couldn’t return due to her hasty marriage. She rued the fact that she cannot attend our Thursday meetings as her “in-laws” house is at a different part of town. However she promised to drop by as and when she visits her mother. Once she departed, the group planned to gift one of the baby clothes for her child.

 

Thus we ended February with hopeful plans for March.”

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

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.

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

The Strengths Project in Shiriti Slum, Kolkata, India

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

As regular readers of The Capp Blog may remember, for a number of years Capp has been supporting strengths-based community development through a Women’s Sewing Co-operative in the Shiriti slum in Kolkata, India.

 

Avirupa Bhaduri is our Strengths Consultant, based in Kolkata, who leads this work, and who will bring us regular updates on how the project is progressing.

 

In this post, Avirupa explains what happened when we first visited Shiriti and how we came to decide to work with Shiriti slum in particular:

 

“We reached Shiriti at about mid morning. Though I have visited quite a few slums in the course of my work, I found Shiriti to be remarkably well organised. To start with Shiriti is a registered slum, has somewhat permanent structures, electricity is available in most houses, however admittedly, some connections were not quite legally obtained. The slum has a community square, even a govt. aided primary school can be found in the premise.

 

Shiriti is home for about 300 families comprising 5 members each on an average. We were greeted by a group of kids, cheering loudly. Their parents and community elders held back, hesitantly. We then decided to split into two groups to understand, communicate and connect better with the neighbourhood.

 

At the end of the day we met to share and discuss about our respective experience. Among the diverse people that we met, one factor was common, the residents of Shiriti had a sense of pride about their community, and a surprising bond of fellow feeling. For e.g. when Alex asked a middle aged man about his ideal dream, he answered that he would like to take his whole neighbourhood to a better and cleaner more posh place.

 

This got Alex to reflect if we can explore the possibilities of community strengths, and the idea for our work with strengths-based community development in Shiriti was born.”

 

In future posts, we will tell you more about the story of how our work with Shiriti evolves, and also give you updates on the issues, challenges and opportunities faced by the people living in this remarkable community.

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS