Coir Rope Enterprise, Shantidan Leprosy Colony, Khurda, Odisha
This is an all-women’s enterprise for making coir ropes. In 2010, SILF signed off financial support to these women to take over an already running small-scale plant making coir rope. Prior to taking over this plant, all the five women were dependent on minimal daily wages and casual labor for their living. Their plan was to upgrade the small plant, where rope was being made with simple, manual tools, to a bigger one, using an electric machine. The plan was well thought of and the beneficiaries were committed; but the journey to accomplish their dreams wasn’t quite as easy as they had thought.
Getting started with the project itself was not easy as they faced a lot of discouragement particularly from the men folk who were convinced that, being women, they would not be able to run the project on their own. Then, after installing the machines, they realized that the electricity supply was not adequate and that they would need a transformer to be installed in their colony to run the machines on a regular and uninterrupted basis.
With the support of SILF, People’s Forum and their Colony Leader, these women approached the authorities and succeeded in persuading them to install a transformer in the colony. This was a major step but their journey continued to be fraught with challenges.
For example, the new transformer had old cables, which led to severe electricity fluctuations, thus making it difficult to run the machines. The activity had to be stalled again as a result. Once again, the women took it upon themselves to persuade the authorities to replace the old cables with new ones. Work finally started in January, 2012, after a long gap of one and a half years. Not disheartened, the women resumed work in the plant with great enthusiasm.
Today the enterprise is well established and profitable, producing more than 50 kgs of rope daily. The pride that the women have in their work shows in their confidence and smiles as they go to work in their bright yellow saris – a uniform that they have chosen for themselves. Not only is the enterprise fully managed by the women themselves, they have even learnt how to do minor repairs of the machines themselves and no longer waste time waiting for the mechanic to show up. What is even more inspiring is that these women have started “mentoring” a similar project in a nearby colony. Having helped themselves they are now helping others! It is not surprising that the earlier skepticism of their men folk has been replaced by respect and admiration.