Utkal Alumina: Engaging, Uplifting, Empowering Women

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Bhubaneswar: Many moons ago, when Aditya Birla Group was all set to establish an Alumina Refinery in the Kashipur Block, this inaccessible corner of Rayagada District in Odisha was counted as one of the most under-developed tribal areasin the country.Today, one witnesses a dramatic transformation in the Kashipur block with the committed engagement of Utkal Alumina International Ltd., a fully owned subsidiary of the Aditya Birla Group metal behemoth, Hindalco.
Not only has Rayagada prospered with the coming in of Utkal Alumina, but its tribals have attained a distinct stature and have made unimaginable progress. On its part Utkal Alumina under the aegis of the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, chaired by Mrs. Rajashree Birla, and supported by the Director of UAIL Dr. Pragnya Ram, the Unit Head of UAIL Mr. N. Nagesh and the HR Head Mr. T. Meenaprakash, has begun a holistic welfare driven programme on the plank of employment generation, healthcare, education and rural development.
In this context, one of the most notable programmes has been in the field of women empowerment in and around Rayagada.Most importantly for the economic development of tribal women and girls, the company has started two successful projects viz. ‘Saksham’ and ‘Kaushalya’ under its CSR activities.
The ‘Saksham’ project was conceived to hone the skills of rural girls and women through training them in tailoring and garment manufacturing. At present 30 women from 8 peripheral villages have been employed in the garment manufacturing unit at Tikiri.At present, Going a step ahead in its continued endeavor of working relentlessly towards taking adequate measures for combating the pandemic Covid19, Utkal Alumina International Ltd (UAIL), Doraguda, a unit of Aditya Birla Group in Kashipur Block of Rayagada district in Odisha has so far distributed more than 1lac Masks to its stakeholders in both districts of its operation.
Amidst this crisis situation when the masks have become an integral part of respiratory hygiene for all to protect us from possible infection of COVID 19, the women engaged in “Saksham” have geared up the mask production. Beating all odds at this lock down, the women from nearby villages have proved themselves as a crusader of change and produced almost 50000 Masks through their consistent effort so far. In addition to this, UAIL has also procured 60000 additional masks to distribute in both the districts of Rayagada & Kalahandi. This gave them an opportunity to serve the community as well as an alternate income source.
Similarly, through project ‘Kaushalya,’the training programs on tailoring and applique making are also being organised. As of now 101tribals spanning 7 peripheral villages have already been trained. An additional 30 are undergoing training. In applique making 24 young ladies from 4 villages have been trained to start their individual enterprises.Utkal is doing its utmost to close the loop by ensuring that these young ladies are fruitfully engaged once they have mastered the art. In this regard, many of them have been roped in by the Shilpi Unnati Yojana. Many others have accessed loans from the Tikiri Agro Craft Producer company to begin their own start-up. Utkal is currently involved in training 16 youngsters in tailoring and applique art.
Mr. N. Nagesh, Unit Head & President of UAIL, feels that the “problem of sustainable livelihoods specially for the rural poor is a matter of concern. We are tackling it in Rayagada with a series of proactive initiatives, such as Saksham and Kaushaya projects based on skill development that enables women also to earn reasonably well, work independently and considerably supplement the family income.”
Concurring with Mr. Nagesh, Mr. Sushil Barada, Industry Promotion Officer, Regional Industries Centre, Rayagada, adds that “these projects besides providing an income source, help enormously in giving these women a kind of social recognition, in turn raising their self-confidence, and motivating them to widen the net by enlisting more women”.
Since its inception, a decade ago, Utkal Alumina works in 57 villages, embracing a 40,000 populace largely indigenous tribes housed in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts of Odisha.

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