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ALEEYAH: A 17-year old girl’s STEP to transform rural life of Bengal

The Delhi-based initiative has successfully completed two cycles of bringing crafts for sale and is set for Round 3 in the summer of 2016.

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Rural Children. Image Source: Aleeyah
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Delhi: Starting from a STEP Youth Leadership Program by TERI University to creating a social initiative and then transforming it into a ‘Social Entrepreneurship’; the student run and organised enterprise ALEEYAH has come a long way. In an exclusive interview with NewsGram by Divyia at Delhi, the 17-year-old founder, Diya Kundu shares her idea about the initiative that transformed so many lives.

Aleeyah was launched last year in May 2015 in an attempt to improve the conditions of the Golabari Village in Changmari district of West Bengal. As they say, ‘Charity begins at home’, Diya decided to start the initiative from her hometown itself.

Divya Kundu. Image source: ALEEYAH
Divya Kundu. Image source: ALEEYAH

As a part of the initiative, severely underpaid artisans and craftsman in the rural Bengal are offered a month-long job terms where they create handicrafts using natural raw materials. The handicrafts are then brought to Delhi, where they are polished and then sold at a good price. The proceedings are then reinvested in the village, with 25% going towards the artisans and the remaining 75% are used for overall village welfare.

Since its inception, among many of Aleeyah’s achievements- it has provided light bulbs for homes, repaired leaks on the roofs of various houses, supplied raincoats for farm labourers, given each household a safety-kit and identified and deployed volunteers to provide adolescents with knitting and weaving skills.

Handicraft items made by the rural people of West Bengal. Image source: Aleeyah
Handicraft items made by the rural people of West Bengal. Image source: Aleeyah

The response from the village has been positive, describes Kundu. “There was a time in the beginning when I wasn’t really taken very seriously because I’m really small and everything I understand but then when I got these really small ideas that worked well for them so when I got a camera and started recording everything then they got really excited,” she says.

Apart from Kundu, the enterprise includes two other project heads, along with an Arts division to add finishing touches to the handicrafts and a Social Media division that looks after marketing and brand promotion. Currently, all the participants are students of Delhi Public School Vasant Kunj guided by their French teacher Ms Adita Saxena.

rural people with handmade items. Image source: Aleeyah
Rural people with handmade items. Image source: Aleeyah

The school plays a prominent role in the functioning of Aleeyah as the Arts division completes their work within the school and a considerable amount of the sales are also conducted through fairs in the school premises. Sales also take place in the form of small handicraft fairs in the nearby localities.

Kundu says, the most unexpected aspect of managing an entrepreneurship comes from a young student of Commerce stream from DPS Vasant Kunj and the fact that how important communication is for the smooth functioning of an enterprise.

The Delhi-based initiative has successfully completed two cycles of bringing crafts for sale and is set for Round 3 in the summer of 2016.

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  • Pritam Go Green

    We nee more and more transformations in our society like these. Not only in West Bengal, in other poorer states also like Bihar, Orissa etc

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Top Hollywood women unveiled a sexual harassment initiative

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Top Hollywood women unveiled a sexual harassment initiative
A combination photo shows some of the actresses who have made allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein. Listed in alphabetical order, top row from left, Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, Jessica Barth, Cara Delevingne, Romola Garai, Judith Godreche, Heather Graham, Angelina Jolie. VOA

USA, Jan 1, 2018: More than 300 top women in Hollywood — from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence to Emma Thompson and Cate Blanchett — unveiled an initiative Monday to tackle pervasive sexual harassment in workplaces, calling special attention to their “sisters” in less than glamorous blue-collar jobs.

The initiative, dubbed Time’s Up, caps a year in which the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal touched off a deluge of allegations that brought down powerful men in entertainment, politics and the media, prompting companies, government agencies and even the U.S. federal court system to re-examine harassment policies.

But in an open letter printed in The New York Times, the new initiative lends the star power of its A-list members to the cause of women in less prominent fields, urging support and respect for farm workers and others whose humble positions leave them vulnerable and voiceless.

“We fervently urge the media covering the disclosures by people in Hollywood to spend equal time on the myriad experiences of individuals working in less glamorized and valorized trades,” the group says in its full-page ad.

“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile … we stand with you. We support you.”

$15 million goal

Last month, the head of Ford Motor Company apologized to employees at two factories in Chicago and promised changes, after a scathing expose by the Timesdetailed pervasive harassment and mistreatment of women at the plants dating back to the 1990s. It was one of the first major media investigations into sexual harassment in blue-collar workplaces.

Among the specific steps it announced, Time’s Up has established a legal defense fund that, in just 12 days, has raised $13.4 million toward a $15 million goal aimed at providing legal aid for women and men who were sexually harassed, assaulted or abused in the workplace.

It has vowed to push for legislation to strengthen laws on workplace harassment and discrimination.

The group insists that more women must be brought into positions of power and leadership, while every woman should have equal benefits, opportunities, pay and representation.

As for Hollywood, it wants “swift and effective change to make the entertainment industry a safe and equitable place for everyone.”

And it called on women to wear black at Sunday’s Golden Globes as a statement against gender and racial inequality, and to raise awareness about the group’s efforts.

‘Dear Sisters’ 

The open letter in the Times, which also appears in the Spanish-language La Opinion, opens with the words “Dear Sisters” in large, bold type, and closes with the words “in solidarity,” followed by the names of the 300 women.

Several of Weinstein’s accusers signed the open letter. They include Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale, as well as Salma Hayek, whose lengthy account of mistreatment by Weinstein — “my monster,” she called him — was widely circulated on social media after appearing last month in The New York Times.

Weinstein has denied some of the allegations, including Hayek’s assertion that he pressured her to do a nude sex scene in one movie.

Other prominent women lending their names to the Time’s Up cause are actresses Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, Amy Schumer, Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Keira Knightley, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Susan Sarandon, Uma Thurman and Viola Davis; producer Shonda Rhimes; Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley; feminist activist Gloria Steinem; lawyer and ex-Michelle Obama chief of staff Tina Tchen and Nike Foundation co-chair Maria Eitel. (VOA)