Turning Women Into Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, Kanpur

Vedanshi Bhartia is an Earth5R member who conducted an Upcycling workshop from the 11th of July to 25th of July at Lala Anantram Bhartia Dharmshala, Kamla Tower, Kanpur. She taught women and kids how to make paper bags, paper baskets, paper mache and used plastic to make decorative items.

On the very first day,  Vedanshi interacted with the group and gave them an introduction to the basic idea of the workshop. The crowd consisted of kids, teenagers, and older ladies. The group seemed enthusiastic and curious about learning Paper Upcycling. She spent the first day teaching them the techniques of folding paper and making the strips.

Upcycling Kanpur Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

The next day, Vedanshi taught them how to make paper bags using the strips they made on the first day. The community took time figuring out the technique in making the crisscross framework of baskets but they kept trying. They really enjoyed the process and were eager to see the finished look of the baskets. The group came with up wonderfully woven superior quality baskets.

Community Development Kanpur Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

Not stopping at that, they experimented making a different style of the basket which required more intricate weaving. The baskets could be more desirable by customers due to its utility value, hence, they improved the designs. These baskets involve the crisscrossing of paper tubes unlike the previous ones having paper strips. Being a more complex design the making was more time taking.

From a marketing point of view, these baskets stand a strong chance at luring customers because they are strong and can be coloured easily, unlike jute baskets.

Circular Economy Kanpur Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

Vedanshi further, on the next day taught the group about the paper mache. They were surprised to know that this has been a very archaic method, used by their ancestors for making idols. So, on the day 3 they tore old, discarded papers and the pieces were left for soaking in water, which takes about 2 days to get turned into a very soft mixture. They decided to work upon the paper mache a couple of days later.

Women Empowerment Kanpur Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

Meanwhile, on the next day, she conducted the plastic recycling workshop in which they were taught about cutting plastic bottles into flower petals. After learning the various methods of reusing plastic bottles, they vowed to not to throw away plastic and recycle it. They also painted floating candles in beautiful bright hues using acrylic paints.

Recycling Kanpur Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

The community worked with paper mache on day 8, where they also learnt the process of making “leyi” which is an organic do-it-yourself adhesive.

On Day 9, The group made paper bags today and the ladies themselves came up with the list of potential markets for these bags. She allotted them areas where they will be taking up paper bag contracts including the local food joints and small retail store owners. The next day, Vedanshi helped the group make paper bags which involves side folds. The kids found it difficult yet were hell bent on making their way through it.

Recycling Awareness Kanpur Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

For the last day,  with the internship of Vedanshi coming to an end with this project, she is satisfied to find her girls’ brigade all set to become entrepreneurs. Having tied up with the local shopkeepers, they will soon sell their first set of paper bags and a lot more in counting.

It was an overwhelming moment when these girls told her how they have already started showcasing their newly acquired skills of basket making in their community and families. I was amazed to see how the ladies were discussing the places from where they could buy newspapers at a cheaper rate,thereby working on profit maximisation. This workshop has given them new horizons, new perspective and courage to take a leap towards social entrepreneurship.

Report by Vedanshi Bhartia, Edited by Anushka Mehta, Photos by locality residents

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