27 March, 2020

Painting a bright future

Kamla Sisodiya paints the canvas of her life, breaks stereotypes and storms the male bastion of painters

“Ours is a lower middle class family,” says Kamla Sisodiya, a young woman from Swaroopganj village in Sirohi district of Rajasthan. She adds, “I am 27, have an M.Com degree and an intent to work. But unfortunately, I have remained jobless for a long time”.

 Under the Skill Development Initiative of Tata Trusts, the Tata Strives’ Fellows contacted  Kamla, as a part of the outreach programme to bridge the gap between ‘reach’ and ‘access’ in various, often remote, parts of the country. The Fellows were quick to gauge her situation. Kamla recalls her meeting with the Fellows, “Getting those skills that could earn me a living seemed like a plausible, probable and possible option. I was curious, asked my share of questions and, once convinced, agreed to attend the counselling.”

During the individual session, the counsellor mapped out Kamla’s natural interest for artistic work; more specifically, sketching. To her surprise, she learnt that she was not alone. Out of those who attended the counselling, many more were found to have a similar flair. Precisely, 22 of them - all women.

The Trusts’ team, who knew well to match interest with livelihood options, suggested painting as one skill that could be cultivated and developed further. Asian Paints, a leading paints company of the country, the partner for the painting programme, was offering a Basic Painting Course for which the training was scheduled at Dhanari Panchayat, in the area where these women resided.

All women agreed to attend the workshop. Kamla, beaming with joy, says, “We were ready to break stereotypes and storm the male bastion of painters. We were ready to paint a new future for ourselves. In the 12 days of training, we learnt the craft and were ready with the right skills but little did we know that gender would again come into play.”  

   After their training, finding work seemed an uphill task. In the face of this common challenge, Kamla and three other friends collectively devised a new plan and figured out that what they lacked was marketing. As a rather innovative solution, they made their personal spaces – their homes – a canvas to demonstrate their painting skills. They painted both the interior and the exterior of their homes and almost everyone visiting noticed it. Many even commented on the finesse of their work. Most importantly, now the word was out.

Soon, they landed  their first contract and every association ever since has served as a learning. Contracts range from anywhere between Rs.50,000 to Rs.100,000 based on the size of the job site. Very recently, two government schools in their area also approached them for undertaking the painting work.

“Today, I am a self-made painting contractor and I will not stop here. I want to upskill myself with the know-how of wall art, decals and stenciling – all advanced techniques that will let me grow in the market,” shares Kamla with newfound self-confidence.

This story has been taken from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Allied Trusts Annual Report 2019-20