WOMEN’S HANDICRAFT CENTRE
Enterprise with social mission
On this page: *ABOUT WHC *Benefits to Women *Who earns? *Family background of Sunanda Mukherji
WHC is run by Mrs Sunanda Mukherji. (See photos)
Sunanda, a Masters in Botany, 1961, Calcutta University, India, envisioned WHC in 1989.
In 1991, WHC started its journey in Bolpur-Santiniketan with the vision and effort of Sunanda.
Since late 1980s, Sunanda has been associated with various women's welfare organisations often as one of the office-bearers. The All India Women's Conference (AIWC) is one of them.
Sunanda observed, that despite best intentions, many of the women's organisations could not provide tangible financial solutions or support to women who were in desperate need of a respectable livelihood. The organisations are rightly focussed on women's education and vocational training. After completing training/education, the marginalised women face a complex challenge in finding a respectable profession - employment or enterprise - in the real world. Women with skills in hand embroidery desperately attempt to sell their embroidered products. Lack of financial capital leads to offering cheap material to keep price competitive and maximise profit. Financial exploitation by traders become a reality.
Sunanda, herself a gifted embroiderer, started micro-financing WHC at its inception. She realised that the women required an on-the-job training and skills enhancement opportunity without the responsibility and risk of financial investment. Sunanda's financial resources came from humble widow-pension. Sunanda started WHC's work on the principles of 'small-scale work and modest return'. High quality of work and material were and still are the firm goal-posts that would not shift in WHC.
Since Day 01, Sunanda does the following:
Benefits to women
Women who have worked with WHC, have become more confident in their social path. Economic confidence has improved their self esteem. Each woman has a stirring 'story' - abandoned by husband, young widow, unable to marry because main provider in family, main earner in family with one eye, male family member will simply not work for money, domestic violence, no money to organise a funeral or buying wedding dress (Sari) or pay hospital fees, social and family pressure to get under-aged girls married ... ... the list is longer ...
To many of these women WHC had made and still does make a difference. The women not only found a financial means to move on with certainty and confidence, but also got the poise to face social challenges and taking a bold stand to assert their own right.
WHC has been witnessing a steady rise in the number of young girls sustaining school education rather being married off; often their mothers (working with WHC) are taking the bold decision.
WHC has taught many women about banking and has assisted them to open bank accounts locally.
Sunanda networks with social workers and the legal profession to assist women with legal representation free of cost.
Some women have gained experience at WHC and set up their own enterprise ... the best example of self empowerment.
Who all earn from one product sold in WHC?
1. Weaver: weaves, dyes/colours fabric, washes to check fastness ...
2. Tailor (if tailoring is required) ...
3. Designer: conceives or selects design and colour of thread ...
4. Draughtsperson: draws designs on fabric ...
5. Trader, selling thread ...
6. Embroiderer ...
7. Supervisor: controls quality (including checking fastness of colour) and ensures time deadline is met ...
8. Washerwoman ...
Sunanda, by birth and marriage, belongs to a family of university lecturers and school teachers. Her parents, Late Sushil Kumar Bose and Late Promila Bose, were in the field of Chemistry and Botany, Calcutta University. Promila completed her high-school study through to Masters degree after her marriage. Sushil Kumar supported and encouraged Promila with her education in the early 20th century. In 1972, Promila retired as an academic from Lady Brabourne College and Bethune College, Kolkata, India. Promila was awarded her Master of Science degree in Botany in 1938, the first such degree awarded to a female student in the Calcutta University.
Sunanda's husband, Late Visvapriya Mukherji was an academic in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, India having earlier worked in the Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC), New Delhi. Visvapriya specialised in Physics, History of Science and Technology, German language and popular education of physical science.
Late Prabhatkumar Mukherji, renowned historian, the first Tagore-biographer and social-worker, was the father-in-law of Sunanda Mukherji. Late Sudhamayee Mukherji, mother-in-law of Sunanda, was an academic and had established the first formal girls' school in Bolpur on firm footing between 1937 and 1954. Sudhamayee was the principal of the school for many years till retirement in 1954. The school is now the main girls' school in Bolpur. Sudhamayee was awarded her Bachelors degree in Arts in 1917, Bethune College, Calcutta University.
Sunanda has been following in the footsteps of her family's tradition and the one that the Tagore family instilled in Bolpur-Santiniketan.
Sunanda is actively engaged with social and welfare agencies such as the Binapani Educational and Welfare Trust, Bolpur and the Sarada Kalyan Bhandar, Medinipur.
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