Imphal, Nov 19 (IANS): Amidst the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur, a non-profit organisation -- Eta Northeast Women’s Network –- has been providing livelihood as well as mental support and counselling to hundreds of distressed and displaced women living in the relief camps since riots broke out in the northeastern state in May.
Eta’s founder-chairperson Sophia Rajkumari emphasised the organisation’s goal of beginning a basic livelihood cycle for the women victims.
“We are now providing skill training and mental support to hundreds of women in 12 relief camps in three districts -- Bishnupur, Kakching and Imphal East – and gradually the number of beneficiaries and number of relief camps would be increased,” Rajkumari told IANS.
She said that with a commitment to uplifting these women, Eta has been providing essential skill training and livelihood support to them.
“After providing essential skills for manufacturing various items we are providing them initial interest-free capital to embark on entrepreneurial ventures,” the lawyer turned social activist stated.
Eta’s efforts not only focus on skill training but also extend to connecting these women with potential markets and customers.
“We’ve been providing training for women at the relief camps in making incense sticks, various clothes and blankets and confectionery items. We supply the materials and support the marketing and sales, ensuring that all proceeds go entirely to the women,” Rajkumari explained.
In the midst of the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur, the Eta, based in Imphal and Bengaluru, has emerged as a beacon of hope for women seeking refuge in relief camps.
She highlighted the comprehensive nature of their initiative, aiming to offer a sustainable path to financial independence for the victims and their families.
“We want to empower these women, aiding in their psychological recovery from the traumas they have endured in the riots.”
Established in 2019, Eta has over 4,000 members in Manipur and across the world, working to empower women in northeast India.
“Our organisation supports women with the voluntary contribution of funds by members across the world,” Rajkumari said.
Eta’s recent collaboration with the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Bishnupur district resulted in procuring over 20 looms for the displaced women.
The organisation is providing raw materials and aid in marketing to women weavers.
The beneficiaries themselves attest to the positive impact of Eta’s support.
Maniyai Haobijam, a beneficiary from Churachandpur district, expressed gratitude by donating Rs 4,000 from her earnings to Eta.
“They brought a new hope into our lives. We were all hopeless, but now we have the confidence to start a new life,” she remarked.
Bidyarani Oinam, another beneficiary, echoed this sentiment, stating, “I was disheartened when I first escaped the ethnic clash… Now, I have hope as I learned the art of making candlesticks with support from Eta.”
“Engaging in these activities eased my tension. Eta handles our product marketing, sparing us the hardship. I vividly recall when they informed me about the high demand for our products.” Oinam added.
Rajkumari highlighted Eta’s past initiatives of raising awareness of women’s rights and health, partnering with the Manipur State Judicial Services Authority for legal education.
The ethnic violence between the non-tribal Meiteis and the tribals Kuki-Zo left at least 180 people dead, 1500 injured and 32 missing in Manipur since riots broke out on May 3.
Some 50,650 men, women and children belonging to different communities have been displaced and are now sheltered in 349 camps set up in schools, government buildings and auditoriums in Manipur.
Over 15,000 displaced people, mostly belonging to Kuki-Zo tribals, are also sheltered in Mizoram, Assam, Nagaland and Meghalaya.