She was mocked and called a ‘garbage collector’. Today, her SHG converts waste into saleable products

Kamala Moharana is part of a women self-help group in a small village in Kendrapara district in Odisha that skillfully converts discarded milk pouches, cigarette packets, gutkha wrapper into beautiful craft. This gives them a livelihood and cleans up the surroundings of their village too.

Ashis SenapatiAshis Senapati   15 Feb 2023 8:06 AM GMT

She was mocked and called a ‘garbage collector’. Today, her SHG converts waste into saleable products

Kamala Moharana (sitting extreme right) and a band of ladies from Gulnagar village that has a population of about 1,200, make baskets, pen stands, mobile phone stands, flower pots, hand fans, wall-hangings, etc., entirely out of waste materials. 

Kamala Moharana of Gulnagar village in Odisha’s Kendrapara district, heads Ma Thanapati, a self-help group (SHG) that was set up in 2016 with the help of the local administration. There were just a handful of women when it began, but today the SHG provides livelihood to 40 women in the village, ranging in age between 28 and 63 years of age.

These women convert waste materials, such as plastic milk covers, gutkha covers, cigarette packets, into baskets, mobile phone stands and other products and sell them for an additional income.

“It all began as a leisure activity when I took used plastic milk covers, gutkha covers, cigarette packets, and other discarded materials, cut them up into strips and wove those strips into a basket,” 64-year-old Kamala Moharana told Gaon Connection, as her fingers moved deftly as strips of waste material turned into a basket weave.

Some of her fellow villagers saw the basket and praised it effusively. That planted an idea in her mind and today Kamala and a band of ladies from Gulnagar village that has a population of about 1,200, make baskets, pen stands, mobile phone stands , flower pots, hand fans, wall-hangings, etc., entirely out of waste materials.

The district administration has been helping Kamala and others to sell their items in the Craft Melas throughout Odisha.

Also Read: Plastic Wastes — Rural India's Trash Bomb

The women collect the plastic waste such as milk packets, biscuit foil and so on, and then thoroughly clean and dry them. The plastic is cut into manageable sized strips and then stitched or plaited together to make the products.

“I now earn anything up to Rs 6,000 a month thanks to Kamala Didi,” Sumitra Moharana, a 32-year-old inhabitant of the village, told Gaon Connection.

Kamala has five daughters and a son. While her daughters are married and living away, her 43-year-old son lives with her and is a carpenter just like his father Satrughan Moharana who died ten years ago.

When Kamala started converting waste into craft, people in the village thought she was a garbage collector, she laughed. “But now they buy things I make out of the waste I collected. Many women and younger girls have also joined me in this waste-to-wealth craft,” she said.

The women collect the plastic waste such as milk packets, biscuit foil and so on, and then thoroughly clean and dry them. The plastic is cut into manageable sized strips and then stitched or plaited together to make the products.

Also Read: Women at work: Self reliance from eco-friendly use of plastic waste

If one has enough practice, one can make three or four baskets a day. “It takes me four to five hours to make four baskets,” Sumitra said. Each basket is priced at anything between Rs 75 and Rs150 depending on the size. A hand-fan costs Rs 100, while a pen-stand is around Rs 50.

An example to emulate

Talking about the SHG, Niranjan Behera, Sub-Collector of Kendrapara said that thanks to the women recycled crafts had come of age in the area.

"Humans create enormous amounts of trash, and only a fraction of that is effectively recycled. But the women of this village, under the leadership of Kamala, are turning waste into wonder,” Behera told Gaon Connection. “Apart from earning money, these women are also cleaning the environment,” he added.

The district administration has been helping Kamala and others to sell their items in the Craft Melas throughout the state, added Behera. He hoped other villages would take note of the good work and follow in Kamala and her SHG’s footsteps.

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