Sukumar is a local Bengali man who has been the security guard at the entrance to the factory since the site at Baduria opened. He was friendly enough, but what we didn’t know was that he had a background in teaching, AND teaching stitching!
He jumped at the opportunity to run the training for the project and the atmosphere at the centre has instantly changed. It already looks a little more organised and I like the way Sukumar seems to interact with the ladies. They seem much more comfortable around him and a little more smiley. Which might not sound like much, but it is.
Put the camera down!
There’s so much I want to show everyone back home, but at times it feels uncomfortable just showing up and taking photos. Amazing how simply walking around with a camera can create a ‘them and us’ feel. I have enough problems breaking down the barriers without putting camera in the middle of it. So I’m trying much harder to engage with the students using Sukumar as a translator. While still not entirely at ease, I am beginning to get an understanding of who they are and what they are gaining from being at the project. If nothing else, I’m really happy that they are being paid to learn how to stitch. Wonder what will happen to them once they have learned the skills?
Will they simply be moved on to the main factory floor and how do we avoid them becoming cheap labour for the factory? Because I am not having that! What about those who are simply never going to be good stitchers? What will become of them? I’m thinking there must be something we can find for them to do.
We decide that the way forward is to ensure the Cocobagh project becomes fully self-funding by finding products that are produced locally to the factory and finding a market for them within the WBC customer base. This will mean the products will provide employment in terms of packing and finishing for the ladies in the project who are not so adept at their new stitching skills. It will also allow those who have become excellent stitchers to remain within the project and encourage new recruits.