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As darkness descends at Tentala, a remote tribal hamlet in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, residents rush to wrap up their daily chores. Like most other women in her village, Hinsi Hazda heads to her kitchen to prepare a meal much before dinner time as there will be no light soon. Hinsi's husband is the sole earning member of their family, with an income of INR 2,500 a month, barely enough to support a family of six with two square meals a day. This was the story of almost every household in Tentala and most other villages in the district.
However, things changed a lot when solar lamps were disseminated to villagers under the Lighting a Billion Lives© programme. With the extra hours that the women could now work at night in, they not only got more time to spend with their families, but also spent less money on kerosene. They even used this extended time with bright solar lanterns more productively, stitching Sal leaves to make plates called 'Kholis’ and contribute to the household income.
Hinsi now earns more than INR 2,000 a month, which is almost equal to her husband’s monthly income. "We could not even imagine liberties like new clothes on Sankrant, our rice production was barely enough to support us, but now I feel more empowered because I contribute to the household by not only being a home-maker, but also a bread winner. I make 100-150 kholis every day, which are sold at a rupee apiece and thanks to the minimum prices implemented by the local NGO, we get well compensated for our hard work." says Hinsi Hazda with an immense sense of gratification.
Aarti Mahanta, who is the village level entrepreneur (VLE) managing the charging station in Tentala, says that she has been encouraging the village women to start new income generating activities and make use of the additional productive hours. She shares how new income generating activities such as the poultry breeding farms have begun in the village. “Light is important for feeding, as the birds identify food and water by sigh and the availability of bright and intense light that does not raise indoor / room temperatures is a big factor affecting the production of eggs. Each sale fetches good money as quality and quantity of outputs have improved. The installation of the solar charging station has been more than a blessing for us and the women of the village are especially happy." says Arati.
Dumini Murmu, who makes 3500 rupees a month with help from her daughter by selling kholi plates to the town vendors, says "Now I have more say in household matters. Aarti ji not only inspires us to earn a living, but also motivates us to step out of our homes, which makes us see the world beyond our villages."
Every woman in this small settlement has an inspirational story to share and has started an incredible journey with a small step towards becoming self-dependent and shaping the future of her community.
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