"We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon" - Franklin D.Roosevelt
Mountain Village Foundation started in 2018 with the aim to bridge the opportunity gap that exists in villages in Uttarakhand by providing access to skill development opportunities to children and youth. Prarambh is MVF's youth empowerment programme. Through this programme, village youth are being trained to make marketable products so that they can build a sustainable livelihood.
The Aipan Project is an effort in that direction and through this post we wish to share with you our learning while working with the youth who are part of the project and how they are beginning to feel encouraged to create a new reality for themselves, one filled with ambition and self-belief through this skill-centric intervention
Aipan is the traditional art-form of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. The designs are either geometric or have flower and animal motifs and are depicted in a balanced combination. The designs are traditionally made on floors and entrances of homes, for all auspicious occasions like festivals, marriages and births, as they are considered to be symbols of good fortune.
With hands-on training, girls are learning how to paint these designs on all kinds of materials. Working with the MVF team, the girls have learnt about the meaning of the various symbols and its significance in the Kumaoni culture. Through training provided by MVF they have been able to paint and design a wide range of products that look sophisticated but vibrant. Most visitors carry back home, these beautiful products as souvenirs of their visit to the hills of Uttarakhand.
Girls like Jyoti, who are a part of the Aipan Project are role models for so many children. Children so often tell us that when they grow up they want to learn how to make all these products and join our youth programme. In this video, see how Jyoti's journey has brought to her more opportunities for growth.
On speaking to the girls, who are part of the project, about how they're growing they had varied answers. One said, " I have been able to pay college fees for my brother" while a second said "I am contributing to support my family", and another said "I paid for my own medical treatment."
As the project progressed we realised that along with learning the skill of painting the intricate Aipan designs, the youth must also develop soft skills like effective communication, so as to be able to talk about the designs, and be able to market their products. They need to develop more confidence so they can bring newer ideas and move forward on their path towards independent entrepreneurship. To enable their progress MVF has been seeking out opportunities for them to participate in exhibitions. We have shared regular feedback on their products from a diverse group of people and have helped them find solutions to challenges that come while designing a product. We have also conducted sessions where they talk about their work with the children in their village which gives them a sense of achievement.
The Aipan Project is one of the projects that is building the self confidence that they too can achieve something significant in their lives. One of the girls' said, " Now we can also proudly say that we are also working and have been able to support our families."
It might be a nascent step, but the Aipan project has been able to bring a glimmer of hope so the youth do not migrate from the hills to other states in search of jobs.