Tag Archive: women’s empowerment;


Mrs. Tamima

Mrs. Tamima’s business is called “101 Strawberries”

She makes a great many different varieties of jam: strawberry, kiwi, fig, plum, apple – 22 varieties in all. Also, some chutneys, south Indian pickles, and brownies. Her customers call her and place their orders on the phone.

Around twenty years ago, she went to a class to learn to make jam. Then she gave some jam to her friends to taste. “They liked it a lot!” she says. That’s how her business got its start.

In one day, she can make five to ten jars.

She has to wash the fruit, then chop, cook, and boil them all. It’s a lot of work, but she explains “It’s very satisfying to get to the end of the day and see that it is done.”

She calls her business “101 Strawberries” because when she asked her niece to suggest a name, her niece replied that she had just been watching 101 Dalmatians, so why not call it, “101 Strawberries?” – which she did.

For the past fifteen years, she’s been coming to the C.P. Art Centre to take part in the Women’s Bazaar when it is held once a year. The C.P. Art. Centre is run by the CPRA Foundation in Chennai, in south India.

Mrs. Tamima’s lovely smile indicates clearly how much she enjoys what she does!

It would be hard to underestimate the transformative power that running their own business has meant for these women. On a practical level, it’s a huge help to the family income and on an emotional level, it’s a great blessing!

Mrs. Rukmani Jayaraman

Mrs. Rukmani Jayaraman sells Tanjore paintings and temple jewelry.

Tanjore paintings are a classical art form, which began centuries ago during the time of the Chola Empire. Its popularity continues today. Mrs. Rukmani Jayaraman sells these paintings which are done by artists in Tanjore, a city known for its artistic expression, around 200 miles (340 kilometers) to the south of Chennai, in south India.

Income means a lot

Running their own business helps the women, whatever their circumstances may be. For some, their income has been really essential, and it has enabled them to feed their families and send their children to school (which is not free in India). For others, it has simply made the family’s life easier, and enabled them to have some extra money to spend.

Their prosperity brings happiness. The sense of community, of getting together with the other women, is a joyful occasion. They take breaks together and catch up with each other’s news. They feel a sense of gratitude to the CPRA Foundation for making all this possible, and especially to Mrs. Shantha, Manager of the C. P. Art Centre, who organizes the entire bazaar and encourages each of them.

Mrs. Sajida

Mrs. Sajida has been selling textiles for sarees for more than twenty-five years.

The Women’s Bazaar has helped these women to get a start and has taught them how to run their own businesses.

These are all traditional Indian enterprises. With their businesses these women are also doing their part to preserve the art and culture of India, including folk art, which always has a meaning and a cultural value.

The women do not pay any of the overhead expenses of running the Women’s Bazaar so that they can keep all of the income they make, so if you’d like to help with a donation, that will go toward the costs of running the Women’s Bazaar and benefitting the women.

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Update – Covid precautions. These photos were taken during a previous visit to India before the pandemic. Since then, during the pandemic, all covid precautions have been taken, with mask being worn, social distancing, and limits to the number of visitors.
The exhibition held from March 4-9, 2020, was inaugurated by Mrs. Suhassini Maniratnam, film actor and director.
The exhibition held from March 9-14, 2021, was inaugurated by Mrs. Akhila Shrinivasan, woman entrepreneur.

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As the breadwinner for her family, Mrs. Vijayalakshmi makes pickles and Indian tortillas called papads.

Sunlight streams across the entranceway as the women set up their products on tables.

Nearby is a busy street, not too wide, but busy enough. Trees grow in the outside area, casting friendly shadows over the tables. There is an outside area and then several inside shops, all buzzing with activity at the Women’s Bazaar which is about to begin.

Many of these women have been participating in the Women’s Bazaar at the C. P. Art Centre every year for 25 years since it first began, and others have been there fifteen or twenty years.

These determined women have overcome hurdles and obstacles to create successful sources of income for their families and themselves. Earlier in their lives, few of them had envisioned a career as entrepreneurs.

They have been mothers and housewives who rose to the occasion when their circumstances required it.

Stepping up to help women become creative

The CPRA Foundation stepped up to fill a need and to empower these women who had never been involved in the world of business, showing them how to make use of their own gifts and talents.

Most of the products they sell are handmade. They may be food made from recipes passed down from generation to generation or may be textiles either bought or created by hand. All the products are environmentally and animal-friendly – for example the beautiful jute handbags that otherwise might have been made of leather. Mrs. Niraimathi runs a very successful business now and also provides all the jute bags that the C.P. Art Centre uses for conferences and other events.

Mrs. Niraimathi

Having learned how to market their wares at the CPRA Foundation, these entrepreneurs are now able to expand their reach by selling products at other venues too, creating a steady income.

The income from their enterprise may cover food and the family’s basic needs, as well as their children’s education from elementary school on through high school and university. In some cases, they are the sole breadwinner. In other cases, their income supplements that of their husband.

Mrs. Shanthi with her pickles, powders, sweets, and savories

Self-reliance brings freedom

As well as providing for the needs of the family, having their own income brings a whole new sense of freedom and well-being into their lives.

With their children provided for, they may be able to expand their businesses to open their own boutiques or shops. No longer feeling trapped inside the house, they are out and about, leading active lives.

The entire day at the Women’s Bazaar is not all spent working – there is time for taking a break together, renewing friendships, and catching up with each other’s news.

Mrs. Shakila displays her cloth garlands for pooja (devotional services) and door decorations.


A community of friends

They value the time spent with each other highly, and they form a community of those who have – over the course of 15-25 years — returned again and again to take part in the Women’s Bazaar – which is always there for them as a steady presence in their lives. They appreciate the warmth and friendship of other women in the community as well as the guidance provided by the C.P. Art Centre – and the ever-present encouragement extended by Mrs. K. Shantha, the Manager of the Centre – who is always a dynamic, lively, and inspiring presence.

Mrs. K. Shantha, Manager of the C.P. Art Centre

The value of economic freedom is hard to overstate. Some among us may take it for granted – but it is a lifeline that makes a big difference towards peace and well-being in the lives of all of us.

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Update – Covid precautions. These photos were also taken during a previous visit to India before the pandemic. Since then, all covid precautions have been taken, with mask being worn, social distancing, and limits to the number of visitors.
The exhibition held from March 4-9, 2020, was inaugurated by Mrs. Suhassini Maniratnam, film actor and director.
The exhibition held from March 9-14, 2021, was inaugurated by Mrs. Akhila Shrinivasan, woman entrepreneur.

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