Vocational Skill Training for Women on Repair and Maintenance of Home Appliances
The current situation
Women in our society are completely financially dependent on their husbands since they usually don’t get an opportunity to gain any kind of vocational skills or qualifications. Instead of practicing an income-generating profession they are considered to be housewives, i.e. their common task assignment is restricted to housework and parenting. This discrimination of women also extends to the job market. Even if a woman is allowed to go for work, the only jobs they can find are in farming, constructing and tailoring sectors where they earn far less money than men. But with regard to the poor families in Wayanad, an additional income by the wives would be an important relief. This holds even more true for widows and their families. For them an income-generating job is nothing less than vital.
Home appliances such as mixer, grinders and electric irons have become indispensable in Kerala today, even in rural areas. Almost every household is utilizing such appliances and most of the shops sell those items. However, there are no repair centers in rural areas to resolve maintenance issues and even for the slightest problem the machines have to be taken all the way to the nearest town for repair. Once in town, the broken appliance stays in the repair shop for several days until the people can go again and collect it.
So on the one hand there is an urgent need for independent income-generating opportunities for women and on the other hand there is a definite need for repair and maintenance services in rural areas.
The aims and benefits of the project
In order to provide women an opportunity to start their own small businesses by offering repair and maintenance services for small electronic appliances, they shall be trained the necessary skills. This will not only benefit them, but also every other household in the Panchayath: 15 families will earn a sustained livelihood and women practicing the typical men-dominated work will be a positive role model for other women and girls. The people of the Panchayath as a whole can benefit in terms of less money needs to be spend on travel costs for repairing, faster service and less ecologically harmful waste – since reuse is better than buy new items.
Groups of 2-3 of our trained professionals will start with offering their services from door to door while conducting the actual repair and maintenance work (if a quick on-site service is not possible) at their homes. This will enable them to both starting their own business and gaining the crucial reputation as well as earning the necessary money to open their own repair and maintenance shops.
The people in those rural areas would never again have to go all the way to the nearest city and spend unnecessary money, time and effort to get basic, everyday appliances fixed. With these technical skills women can show that they are able to learn and work as well in men-dominated branches and earn their own income to support their families. Last year RASTA started a similar project with the aim of repairing the installed solar panels in rural villages. Today the professional solar panel repairwomen are self-confident in their jobs, as well as in everyday life and they are able to contribute an important part to their family’s incomes.
Implementation Process of the Project
The women will be trained by an external, experienced repairmen acting as instructor. This training phase will continue for 6 months to impart them in-depth knowledge about the functioning of different kinds of home appliances as well as the necessary skills to fix any kind of damage. In addition to that the women will acquire basic business administration skills. Even though the women will work together and support each other in groups of 2 (max. 3), 15 appliances will be provided for training purposes, so all women can work simultaneously during the training.
The training will take place in a rented facility that is situated as nearby as possible to the participants homes and the areas where they will prospectively offer their services. This facilitates the everyday trips to the training facility as well as it reduces the travelling costs for all participants – likewise at the later stage when they will receive at least one of their weekly training sessions in the different rural areas.
Starting after the first 3 months of training, so after having gained the basic knowledge and skills, the instructor will take the participants to the different rural areas (where they will later start their businesses) at least once a week. There they will receive public training sessions in terms of repairing broken appliances from local families under the guidance of the instructor. Those public training sessions are mutually beneficial for the local people, that will get a repair service, as well as the future repairwomen, that will have the unique opportunity to introduce themselves to their future clients and advertise for their future businesses.
Starting Business Phase
The women will start their businesses by offering door to door repair and maintenance services. At this phase the women will not have an actual repair shop, but they will perform more complex or time-consuming repair orders in their homes. But of course this does not preclude that costumers can also bring their appliances to the women’s houses. Instead this starting-small approach is meant to reduce the upfront costs for the start of each micro-enterprise to almost none.
The instructor will not be involved during this phase, which requires all participants to translate their theoretical knowledge and practical skills into practice and to act self-responsible. Within 6 months the women will become autonomous entrepreneurs and gain a lot of working experience. In addition to that, they will earn the necessary money to continue their businesses on a solid financial footing or even to expand their businesses, i.a. through opening their own repair shops.
After their first 6 months in business, the women will receive a refreshment training to refine and extend their knowledge and skills in terms of both repairing and business administration. This also poses an opportunity to clarify doubts, exchange ideas and recommendations as well as develop plans for the future.
Going Back to Business
After receiving final instructions and guidance the women will continue their businesses completely autonomous. If they want and if they have earned the needed funding, they can even open their own repair shops.
To ensure sustainability, RASTA will keep in touch with the women and encourage and request them to qualify other women from other Panchayaths as initially agreed. The project is conceptualized to continue for years, depending on the actual demand. In the following years, RASTA will conduct surveys to assess the demand in other areas and to select women from other Panchayaths, inside and outside of Wayanad. The training scheme will be somehow different in that the already qualified women will impart their knowledge and qualify other women (1-2, depending on the respective capacity) by fully including them into every aspect of their work.
Every small donation helps us to change the lives of motivated rural women for the better and to make a decisively contribution to the development of rural communities.