Navjeevan’ Empowering Rural Women
~7 women of the cooperative adjudged ‘Master Craftsperson’ by the Government of Odisha.
Kalinganagar: Very few would know that tribal paintings displayed at a number of souvenir shops in the capital city of Bhubaneswar and other big cities of the state, are made by a bunch of tribal women from Jajpur.
Tucked away in the small rehabilitation colony of Tata Steel at Trijanga, under the Danagadi block, these women have been creating magic with their fingers. It’s not just tribal painting; they are involved in many other creative jobs as well. All of them are part of Navjeevan Co-operative Ltd. (NCL), promoted by Tata Steel at Kalinganagar in the Jajpur district of Odisha. It was formed by members of displaced families of the Kalinganagar project of Tata Steel.
NCL began its artistic journey in 2012 with paintings and wall hangings and later extended its offerings to garments (hand-painted T-shirts), hand-painted stoles, dupattas, sarees, and multi-utility items like conference files and folders, flower vases, pen stands, laminated jute bags, and mobile covers.
Started as a small project, Navjeevan Cooperative has now become a brand with 8 units across Jajpur, including 3 apparel units at Gobarghati, Trijanga, and Sansailo, two tribal art and crafts units at Gobarghati and Trijanga, one tribal jewellery unit at Trijanga, one printing and stationary unit at Gobarghati, and one noodle manufacturing unit at Sansailo.
“At present, all our units have reached a standard where the artisans are able to produce quality products. Our Saura painting unit has 35 artisan members engaged in the production of hand-painted art, i.e., wall hangings, T-shirts, dupattas and sleeves, saris, and other miscellaneous decorative and office stationery items. Our sewing unit is engaging 107 women members,” said Mamata Sundi, a member of the cooperative. “Apart from this, a food processing unit is also operating with 10 women members and engaged in making different varieties of noodles,” she added.
The focus was on the womenfolk who were earlier involved in animal rearing and farming or were confined to their homes with no sources of income. In an attempt to provide livelihood opportunities to the female members of these families, Navjeevan was started. It aimed to come up with income-generating programmes that are not only sustainable but also provide a holistic approach.
While the cooperative participates in a lot of events and exhibitions to sell their products, other well-known brands like Fabindia and Tribes India also source products from the cooperative. The cooperative has a strong customer base, including Tata Steel, Tata Steel Foundation, Trifed, Little Local, Classic Street, District Administration, Jajpur, Parisodhana, Tribal Development Co-operative Corporation of Odisha Ltd. (TDCCOL), other corporations of the region, etc.
From homemakers to transacting businesses with leading agencies in the country, these female artisans have turned professionals since the inception of the cooperative. In FY23, the annual turnover of the cooperative was ₹67,14,763/-, and in FY’22, the turnover was ₹22,50,203/.
On October 12, 2023, the Directorate of Handicrafts, Odisha, issued a list of 48 artisans as ‘Master Craftsperson’ after successfully completing the skill test organised by the State Institute for Development of Art and Crafts (SIDAC), Bhubaneswar, in July 2023. Out of these 48 selected artisans, 7 belong to ‘Navjeevan Cooperative’.
Kousalya Patra, President, Navjeevan Cooperative, has been an artist at Navjeevan since its inception. Speaking about her journey, she says, “I wanted to support my family and become financially independent at the same time. Also, I had a knack for painting since childhood, but I never realised that I could turn it into a profession. After coming here, I have evolved a lot.”
Navjeevan Cooperative has become a ray of hope for these rural women, who are now contributing to their families. From homemakers to transacting businesses with leading agencies in the country, these female artisans have turned into professionals, thus forging a better future for society as a whole.