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Women Weavers from Done Valley Receive Certificates on Completion of STEP Training in Moonj Grass Handicrafts
Valmiki Tiger Reserve, Bihar, February 21, 2017: With a view to encouraging ecologically appropriate livelihoods that reduce the dependence of local communities on wild habitats, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), in association with the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and the Bihar State Forest Department, has provided women from Done Valley, Valmiki Tiger Reserve, training in the weaving of handicrafts made from locally available moonj (Saccharum munja) and kharai (Saccharum spontaneum) grasses. Local women, particularly of the Tharu community traditionally weave grass baskets for their daily use; the project emphasised production of marketable products woven from the grasses, which are available in the river beds adjoining the villages.
 
A training event on the design and production of moonj grass handicrafts underway at Done Valley, Valmiki Tiger Reserve

The training, funded under the Support to Training & Employment Programme for Women (STEP) scheme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, covered 201 women participants from 53 self-help groups constituted under WTI’s Valmiki Conservation Project, from the villages of Naurangia, Gardi, Matiarwa tola, Piprahwa tola, Khairani, Majuraha, Lakshminiya tola and Kamarchinwa. The training was conducted in two phases in Done Valley: the first from April to August 2016 with 127 participants, and the second from November 2016 to January 2017 with 74 new participants. The participants were trained in the design and production of baskets, toys, furniture and crockery items, the emphasis being on sharpening their traditional skills to produce items of interest to the outside world.

Some of the handicrafts produced by women weavers following the training

With the training having been completed, a certificate distribution ceremony was held at the Naurangia Forest Rest House on February 16. Apart from the SHG trainees, the event was attended by Gourav Ojha, IFS, Valmiki Tiger Reserve; Ramdev Prasad, Sarpanch, Naurangia Panchayat; and Indu Kumari, Kaushik Deb and Niraj Kumar from WTI.

The exhibition of products during the event clearly reflected an enhancement in the weavers’ skills as a result of the training. “We are now able to produce two to three variants of the same product to sell in different price ranges”, said Jeet Kumari Devi of Majuraha village.

Kaushik Deb invited the participants’ views on the training, and their expectations from the forest department and WTI. Support for marketing their products was the key demand, whereupon Gourav Ojha, IFS, informed them that the forest department would provide space for them to sell their wares in the department’s souvenir shop, which is to be inaugurated at Valmikinagar on February 25.

Having successfully completed her training, an SHG participant receives her certificate during the event on February 16

Indu Kumari advised the trainees to participate in and sell their products at local fairs. The team of trainers from IIT Kanpur had praised the trainees’ innate skill and willingness to learn new designs, and 27 accomplished participants who could be trained as master trainers in future had also been identified, she added.  
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