Meet Uma Sanjeev VarthaDecember 7th, 2022
"Becoming a supervisor meant changing my personality and being more firm. Disputes can happen among the women but being fair plus meticulous with records is how I deal with this. Life can get so overwhelming but here we always support each other."
Uma Sanjeev Vartha
SUPERVISOR AND EMBROIDERY ARTISAN, AT RANPHUL MAHILA MANDAL CO-OPERATIVE
Uma Vartha is a leader. This was not something she expected before she joined Ranphul Mahila Mandal. In India, finding a job of any kind for a woman with little education and family obligations is hard; finding a job that gives satisfaction and empowers her is next to impossible. Part of the problem is how women are seen by society, and part of the problem is how women are socialized to think of themselves as limited in many ways. The organization created by MarketPlace, our Mumbai partner SHARE, and the artisan cooperatives has succeeded by considering the cultural background and its psychological effects.
When a new cooperative is set up, emphasis is placed on making it accessible. Staff members spend time reaching out to the women in an area, making it clear they will not be turned away for lack of education or skills. If they are willing to take on the responsibility they will be trained on the job. Once the registrations and financial systems are in place and the women have started producing garments, leaders naturally evolve in the group. These leaders are trained to be managers, supervisors and leaders who manage the social programs.
Uma had many challenges in her life. Her father died when she was young, and she later lost her brother and husband. She was left on her own caring for 2 children, a paralyzed mother and a widowed mother-in-law. When she joined Ranphul she found a support group. "At the back of my mind I have had the security and support of my fellow artisans. I have never asked for money but to have people I could go to is such a big security." After her group was up and running, Uma showed a natural ability to lead and was trained as a supervisor. "Becoming a supervisor meant changing my personality and being firm. Distributing the work among the women and calculating their wages can bring about disputes. But being fair and meticulous with records is how I deal with this."
She shared that it is difficult sometimes to balance work and responsibilities such as school visits and her children's needs. Various programs organized by Share have helped her learn to prioritize and have enough time and energy for both work and her children. She found one way to make things better: "I have to travel a lot, and the distances are great. With all that I have to do in a day, time is crucial. So I planned and saved and put a down payment on a scooter. I am sure that I will be able to handle the monthly payments and this will make such a difference for me."
There are many opportunities to learn offered through Share programs and Uma is quick to take advantage of some. "Through my work I have access to services that help my children, such as counseling for my teenage son." She appreciates the supportive and nonjudgmental culture at Ranphul. "Life can get so overwhelming, many times no one at home even remembers their birthdays. But here we cut a cake, sing songs and take pictures. On our birthday we are made to feel so special!"