Tribal women in Manipur make a living as beauticians with help from RYTHM funded Social Entrepreneur
Social entrepreneur Hejang Misao is an advocate of female empowerment. He strongly believes that girls must be given equal opportunity access to education and earning a livelihood.
This is not an easy topic to address in the rural areas of Saikul in Manipur, India.
“Girls in the tribal societies here are often confined to the kitchen and household chores. They are not seen as equal to boys and are usually forced to give up their education to help their families. We had to do a lot of work to first help people understand that girls are not lesser than boys.” he explains.
To encourage the girls from the Kuki tribe to be independent and skilled, RYTHM Foundation funded Hejang’s initiative to provide beauty skills training to them. The project began in 2018 and to date, a total of 55 girls have successfully trained as beauticians.
“The response has been very encouraging and a few of the girls are now employed in salons in nearby cities,” he said.
Hejang says his job does not stop with just providing the girls with training. It also includes matching them with prospective employers.
“In cities like Bangalore in Southern India, we have a network of fellow North Eastern Indians who own beauty centers and salons. We got in touch with them and arranged for jobs and accommodation for the girls,” he said.
“We follow-up with the girls after they start working and monitor them to ensure they are well taken care of and are safe. Their safety and happiness are most important for us,” he said adding that the girls preferred going to cities like Bangalore or other parts of South India which they feel are safer for women as compared to northern states.
“Here, the school drop-out rates are very high due to gender bias and poverty. Once the girls start training with us, we educate them about the government schemes and encourage them to apply,” he said.
“For many generations, girls were only seen as being suitable for domestic chores like cooking, cleaning and looking after the family. Following the success of the beauty skills trainings, awareness and leadership classes, we recently even held a girls football tournament, which is the first of its kind in this area,” Hejang said.
“I see the tournament as a positive impact from RYTHM Foundation’s support to these girls,” he added.
Hejang Misao is one of three social entrepreneurs sponsored by RYTHM Foundation under the Sadguru Gnanananda Fellowship, a project of Manava Seva Dharma Samvardhani Trust (MSDS). The fellowship is offered to young citizens who are socially conscious and work on projects to benefit marginalised groups or people in rural areas.
Through the fellowship, the recipients are given a monthly grant for three years, to help them scale their projects and turn them into a sustainable source of income for the communities.