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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Teaching Business to Chidiya

Over the past two weeks, Rachna and I have been teaching Nest's Business Curriculum to our awesome cooperative of female artisans. Their cooperative is very much like a business, so we have taught lessons ranging from Pricing, Professionalism, and Marketing. These lessons are meant to help the women run Chidiya more successfully. The women have been businesswomen for their whole lives, with their families before them as well, but since they have never received formal business training, they really have so much more potential to increase their already existing income.

The curriculum is extremely comprehensive and well put together. The main trouble that we have found teaching it to the women though, has been our trouble with the translation and the womens' illiteracy. A lot of the concepts articulated in the curriculum are very "Western" or unfamiliar to both the translator and the women, as a result of the cultural disconnect. This has required us to partake in a lot of rephrasing and adapting the explanations so that they make sense to this certain community. It could get a little frustrating, but if I've learned anything about development work, you have to be both patient and flexible :)

The other difficulty lies in the womens' illiteracy, only because this limits the activities that we can perform during the lessons. Since the women cannot read and write on their own, a lot of the exercises we do have to be done orally, either in a large or smaller group.

There are around 5 members who consistently come to the training and are highly active. The other 4 do not come as often, and when they do, they do not participate. There was a conflict the other day between an active and nonactive member. The active member was trying to get the nonactive member to answer a question and participate, but she explained that she did not understand and could not answer. The nonactive member shot back at the active member and told her to answer the question instead. A verbal argument commenced, in Tamil, but I could tell that the tone of both womens' voices were highly unfriendly and harsh. After they both left, I learned that the nonactive member who got into the argument is the youngest in Chidiya and also does not have much experience outside of the village. The Narikuravar womens' mother tongue is not Tamil, but they have their own language. Since the nonactive member rarely leaves the village, she does not get to practice her Tamil as much. She also does not have experience selling the beads herself, since the men in her family perform that duty.  Since she does not feel confident in her experiences and in the Tamil language, she has not been participating as much. I am wondering what I can do to try to get her to speak up without singling her out. The language barrier makes things especially difficult, and I have realized that this is the reason why translating our lessons is even harder. The women have less of a grasp on Tamil than they do with their own language.

Besides these obstacles, the women have been given very positive feedback to the lessons. For each lesson, the women will tell us about at least one new thing that they have learned. In our previous Marketing lesson, we brainstormed how we can get Chidiya customers in the local market. Right now, Chidiya only receives orders from Nest, but if Chidiya can find a local vendor that they can receive orders from, they can be more independent in the running of their business. Having more orders like these will also allow for more financial and residential stability for these women and their families. 

Teaching Nest's Microbarter Model
Three Pronged: Microbarter Loan, Business Training, and Marketplace Access

The cutest, most smily baby EVER! He is one of the Chidiya member's sons so he joins us in the business lessons sometimes :)

Preparing for the lesson!

With the translator, teaching.

The women of Chidiya :)

The hostel children that patiently waited outside until the lesson was over, and immediately wanted a picture once they saw the camera :)
Teaching Pricing, calculating Production Cost: materials, labor and overhead. The women explained that they had never really considered overhead costs before, so this was a useful new thing that they have learned and will begin to implement. 
I can't believe that I only have two more weeks in India. I have so much to do! I feel that I have only really started learning about the issues in this community and how to approach them; I have spent the first month and a half learning. Now that I feel like I have a strong grasp on what I should be doing to really help Chidiya, I realize that I only have two more weeks yet. Eeeeek! In these last two weeks, I have to finish teaching the last 3 lessons of the Business curriculum, complete the client and control group surveys, get the rest of the womens' testimonials and pictures, and perform local market research. I will update you all on the last of my busy two weeks as they go! :) 

1 comment:

  1. angela~ i think u are bold brave and beautiful. cant wait to see you!