IMPACT STORY: Sukhni & Binita
Sukhni and Binita Oraon, sisters from Sukna, West Bengal, were raised in a community where their parents, like most, worked long hours at the tea plantations for marginal wages. Although they went to school, they had little else to occupy their time as children. Most evenings and weekends were spent doing household chores, helping mothers in the plantations or aimlessly roaming the streets. When the Darjeeling Mary Ward Social Centre (DMWSC) began the Sukna Jute Program under the Ethical Enterprises initiative, the sisters were among the first few students. Eleven years later, they are now teachers in the program, empowering other girls from their community.
Sukhni and Binita’s classroom is not only a place where girls learn to make jute products but a space where friendship blossoms, stories are shared, and knowledge is gained about how to identify and protect themselves against child marriage, domestic violence, trafficking, and child abuse. The sisters themselves acquired vast knowledge from the program and now aspire to share the same with the young women from their local community. With the income earned from teaching and selling their jute products, they are each pursuing their bachelor’s degree with the dream of becoming teachers at the local university.
“Being associated with this program and DMWSC has given us the confidence, the independence and the faith to dream big and dream for more. We have received immense knowledge, life skills and support from the Sukna Jute Program. From the income earned, we are now pursuing our higher studies. We recently bought a bike to help with transportation, especially at night, and aspire to build a permanent house for our mother.
“Initially, our community hesitated to change and frowned upon us because we continually defied their ways. We also faced many difficulties, especially with the elders, when we encouraged the other girls of our community to be self-reliant and confident in their rights, but now, with help from DMWSC and our own unbreakable spirit, we have been embraced by our people, they even come to us with their problems and trust and respect us – this change is our most significant achievement.”