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How a group of college students is building a social welfare network

People & SocietyHow a group of college students is building a social welfare network
It was quite some time ago that Jawaharlal Nehru implored India to meet its tryst with destiny, and fulfill the promise of an equitable social order in full measure. Despite the 68 which have passed, we haven’t come close to redeeming this pledge made by the country’s first prime minister.
The glaring inequality which is a part of everyday Indian life does not need statistics to be expressed, but the fact that 18 crore of Indians live in themost dire of poverty would be startling even to the most cynical amongst us.
Enactus DCAC, a society formed by the students of the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce (DCAC), aims to change this by imparting women living below the poverty line with skills which they could use to acquire remunerative employment.
Started in 2012, Enactus DCAC has three projects, called Vikalp, Adhikaar and Dor.  Project Vikalp, which was the first one undertaken by Enactus DCAC, teaches women to sew, so that they can stitch commercially. “We talked to so many of these women, and the most common reason they could not join the workforce was because they felt uncomfortable leaving their houses. So we thought we could help get a profession which they could do at home, and that’s how we thought they could start stitching.” says Prakriti Arora, who heads Project Vikalp.
Though they induct only a few women in each of these projects, Enactus DCAC manages to affect their lives profoundly, and to the women who are a part of it, it makes all the difference.
With a lack of funds as well as little experience in arranging the infrastructure necessary to market the merchandise, they decided to start slowly. “Initially we asked people to donate whatever extra material they had, and most of us pitched in with whatever little we could to get the raw material needed to allow the women to sew the first batch. We also tied up with a NGO called Deepalaya, and they helped us manage the infrastructure needed and also helped us with the training of the women who would stitch the bags. Once we had done the first batch, we found it easier to procure the raw material for the newer sets. The profits allowed us to improve the quality of cloth we used, as well as to create more diverse products.” Opined Prerna Sachdeva, who heads Enactus DCAC.
One of the women who works with the Projecrt Vikalp, Uma says “I value the autonomy that working here gives me. I can earn far better than I did earlier, and this allows me to contribute to the family income.”
Rahseeda Khatoon, who also stitches for Vikalp says “My husband could earn 6,000 rupees every month at the maximum, and out of this most went into rent and food, we had no money left over for personal use. Now the extra income which I can make allows us to indulge a little more and also buy other goods.”
The value of the extra income to these women is immense, and it enables to invest in consumer goods which go beyond those needed for sustenance. 
The marketing of the initial bags produced also required a lot of innovation. “In the beginning, we had to ask fests to give us stalls for free as we are a charitable organization. Eventually we managed to get more permanent markets in Janpath and Sarojini. We are now looking towards getting more online markets.” Says Sachdeva.
The second project which Enactus DCAC undertakes is Project Adhikaar, where they train women who can step outside the domestic sphere and work out of doors. In tandem with Sakha, a NGO, under Adhikaar women are trained to drive cabs. Their training also includes reading maps, self-defence and also personality enhancement classes.
 Once they have completed their training, they then drive cabs run by Sakha. The third project that they run is called Project Dor, where women are taught to make string lamps, block paintings and other arts. “These processes are more mechanical and do not need the precision needed for sewing. So even those women who have bad eyesight can be part of Dor, even though they cannot be a part of project Vikalp.” Says Arora.
The members of Enactus DCAC also need to hone their communicative skills, to be able to engage with the communities in the slums, so that the women can also shed their initial distrust of the Enactus DCAC members and be open to the ideas they come with. “We have to ensure that we understand the best way to communicate with the women in the slums, we have to be empathetic in our speech, we also need to be relatable to them, this is the only way we can reach out to these women to help them.” Says Arora.
Though they induct only a few women in each of these projects, Enactus DCAC manages to affect their lives profoundly, and to the women who are a part of it, it makes all the difference.

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