New Delhi: Rajyalakshmi, who used to work as a daily wage labourer, now earns Rs. 10,000 a month by making candles. Rajyalakshmi is one of the 30 women from the Chenchu tribe who have been trained in making candles using beeswax collected by members of the community from Amrabad Tiger Reserve, which is their home, in Telangana. She got to learn and work under Apollo Foundation’s green skilling initiative Arrjava.
Considered one of the earliest settlers, the Chenchu tribe is a traditional hunter-gatherer community that has lived in the Nallamala Hills for centuries. The Amrabad Tiger Reserve is one of the largest tiger reserves in India, located in an area that is traditionally inhabited by the Chenchus. History shows that Chenchu tribals are the first dwellers of the Andhra region even before the Dravidians. They are one of India’s oldest aboriginal tribes. Over the years, their traditional relationship with their forests and natural resources has been altered in a serious and perhaps irreversible way.
Traditionally, the Chenchu tribal community has relied on the forest for their livelihood and depends on nature. With Apollo Foundation’s initiative, they are once again banking on the forest. Rajyalakshmi, who now makes candles, says,
Earlier I used to go for daily labour. The people of the Apollo Foundation taught me how to make candles. I like the work and I am happy to work here.
Rajyalakshmi is glad to “have a dignified life” which has got her “recognition”. She says,
The earnings help my children.
Candle making is not the only sustainable livelihood initiative contributing to the financial wellness of the Chenchu tribe. There is also bottling honey, mushroom, and the jute skilling unit.
Talking to NDTV about the initiative and its relevance, Upasana Kamineni Konidela, Vice Chairperson, CSR, Apollo Hospitals said,
To make the women more financially independent we started a green skilling initiative and all the produce comes from the waste or something around that forest itself. So women are making products. They started with a candle. Green skilling initiative is very strong to empower these women and their communities.
Empowering women is key to the health and social development of families, communities and countries. The Arrjava candle smells like the forest; a candle is meant to spread fragrance around but the green skilling initiative has a sense of purpose for many women like Rajyalaksmi. It is not just providing them with financial stability but also helping them live a life of dignity.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.