banglanatak dot com and Women Empowerment – Little Flickers of Hope.

Banglanatak_logo_400x400Woman’s Day is gone. It is well and truly over, at least for a year and it won’t be any time soon that the peddlers of tinsel – the fairness creams and the art deco jewelries – will be dusting the cliché of women’s empowerment out of their cupboards to push their ware. Just the time, to talk of Women and Empowerment and what it actually means.

We are talking of women who are poor, marginalized, discriminated against – the condemned, who dare not dream – for they are the children of a lesser God. Their hearts, a predestined abyss of darkness, that stretches from one eternity to another. It is in these hearts that, some believe, women empowerment is about planting the seeds of hope.

“Hope, that their lot can be changed. Hope, that they, themselves can be the change. Hope, that there are people who want to celebrate their change” said Sayantani Raychaudhuri, General Manager, banglanatak dot com, an organisation that is literally walking the talk at the grassroots, for close to two decades now.

“Once the Hope sends in the roots, the sapling of Life sprouts and the quest for light, enlightenment, empowerment begins” continued Sayantani, her obvious passion stressing every syllable.

“Traditional expertise and local lore merge to breathe life into micro economic ventures. Individual efforts embrace families, include local communities, and metamorphose into living, thriving enterprise that defies the odds, transcends time and challenge the status quo.

Sustainable development at the bottom of the economic pyramid – that is inclusive and fosters equal opportunity. It is not about “empowerment” in the traditional sense of the term – it is about encouraging human beings to shrug off the millstones of fatality, to curve their destiny with their own hands”.

On another level, she explained, how empowerment means different things to different groups of women.

“As a girl child, her battle is for her childhood, for her right to education, her right to life. That she was not finished off as a fetus is not good enough, she has to wage the relentless war against discrimination, against apathy, neglect, cruel countenance.

As the Hapless Housewife – her battle is against the eternal cycle of childbirth – conceive, carry, create, repeat. Even as she toils the most, 24 X 7, within the confines of a black hole she calls home where the winds of change that rip through the countryside stop, not daring to venture in, where even sunlight fears to tread.

As the Change Agent – her battle is against the system that forsakes the woman from all matters creative. She wants to imbibe the knowledge of her forefathers to curve a little niche of sanity, baby steps of self actualization that the society terms sacrilege.

As the equal contributor – her battle is to do the yin to make the cycle of life complete. She fights shoulder to shoulder with her mate for her family’s place in the economic sun. By this stage, she has picked up the gauntlet life had thrown and is ready take the battle to the enemy called apathy.

And finally, even after she reaches the top of the pecking order, as the Empowered Entrepreneur – her battle is against deification, against decay. She has climbed the ladder of success against all odds and those that she vanquished on the way have now turned sycophants, conspiring to extract their pound of flesh with false words even as she battles with the boundaries.”

“We work with women across this entire gamut” says Sayantani “and the stories of empowerment, as you call them, are all there – like the proverbial pots of gold at the end of the Rainbow. Instead of me telling you about them, I’d rather, you find them yourself.”

Clicked by MK in JakartaSayantani Raychaudhuri is a Masters in literature from Presidency College, Kolkata. Sayantani is the General Manager of banglanatak dot com and has been a lead member of the managing team since the inception of the organisation in 2000. The organisation is a social enterprise working for sustainable development using culture based approaches. Through their flagship initiative Art for Life (AFL), they have worked with 10,000 rural marginalized families for creating livelihood opportunities and their social inclusion based on their traditional art and culture skills across West Bengal and Bihar. The organisation is in Special Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC (2013) and in consultative status with UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee (2010).  Sayantani has extensive experience in engaging youth in heritage, promotion of intangible heritage through urban and rural festivals, developing cultural spaces, promoting community based cultural tourism, capacity building of traditional ICH practitioners etc. Sayantani has presented at diverse forums like ITB, WOMEX, WTM and international symposiums like “Symposium on Challenges in Heritage Tourism’, at Bangkok organized by SEAMEO-SPAFA in 2006 and at the ‘International Congress on Cultural Heritage & Sustainable Development’ at Hangzhou, China by UNESCO in 2013.

banglanatak dot com is a social enterprise working at grass roots with a mission to foster pro-poor growth using culture based approach. They specialise in communication for development (C4D) using theatre. Bangla Natak develops community led creative industries based on intangible cultural heritage like performing arts and crafts. In their journey so far, they have covered more than 2500 villages across 23 states of India. And have been awarded by a host of national and international agencies

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