A souvenir shop for women to realise their potential

RENEW: Sonam, 33, lived a comfortable life until her husband’s tragic demise in 2013. Without any skills and income source, and two children to look after, she felt handicapped.
Initially, she thought that Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW), is only for those who are the victims of domestic violence.
“I approached RENEW to get financial support so that I can open a shop,” Sonam said. However, the director with the centre convinced her to get livelihood skills training from the centre. Sonam has been in the centre for the last nine months. RENEW had sent Sonam along with two other women to India for weaving training to use Assami loom. The three will be training others in the centre by end of this month.
“I am motivated to do better in whatever I can learn,” Sonam said confidently. “I learned that as long as you have the will, you can do anything you want in life even without having to depend on anyone.”
Like Sonam, the centre currently has seven domestic violence survivors.
The Livelihood Skills Training Unit was established in 2008 for women who are victims of domestic and gender-based violence. It is being used as a measure to build the women’s capacity for economic independence, both as a preventive and curative measure.
The training at the centre includes tailoring, hand- and machine-made embroidery, and weaving using strap, Kokrajhar and Assami loom. Now the training includes ginger candy and tofu making and Japanese peach for income generation.
RENEW’s skills training project officer, Naina Gajmer, said that the centre had shifted it’s focus from development of products and training the women to sale of products by opening a souvenir shop at the centre in Thimphu on October 21.
Naina Gajmer said that the shop will help the women to learn to be proud of their skills. “Women feel happy and motivated when their products are sold.” She added that apart from knowing how to stitch and weave, it is important for the women to know what product sells well.
Therefore, two Finnish cloth designers with International Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida), an international NGO to promote the welfare of women and children, are in the country for a month to train the women on how to sell their products, run a shop, to design and to achieve perfect colour combination, among others.
Fida international joined RENEW to diversify the skills training programme through Creative Minds, Busy Fingers project.
The centre provided livelihood skills trainings to the survivors of violence in RENEW’s shelter home and the open-air prisoners in Dawakha.
The project has taken its services to Sarpang, Trongsa, Tsirang and Trashigang this year. The centre’s aim is to get to all the dzongkhags.
Dechen Tshomo

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