Matha Chhaj - Rice hay roofs

 

How does one explain the concept of empowerment?

Is it the act of taking control over your future, accepting responsibilities, finding the strength to undertake initiatives or simply to become an actor of one's own life?

 

Here is a little story, a strong illustration of this idea called "empowerment". It takes place in a small town in north-western India, but it could well be applied in Western countries all over the world, where fear has often taken over our personal choices and desires to become an entrepreneur.

 

While we are visiting a wonderful NGO campus called "Hunnarshala" (which we will discuss in more detail in the future, here is their website for people in a hurry), we are distracted by giggles from a building under construction before which we stand.

It is the laughter of kutchi women working on the roof structure of the new meeting room on campus.

They are watching us from up there, bright-eyed and smiling. It is unclear whether this is mockery, shyness or simple curiousity about the motley group of visitors that we are.

 

Siddarth, our friend from hunnarshala, explains that these women are actually "building contractors" as they are called in Europe. They started their company called Mathachhaj, five years ago after being trained to implement rice hay roofs by Hunnarshala. This traditional indian technique called "Thatch roof" is "completed" by another technique used in Bali, Indonesia. This combination allows for insulating roofs using only local materials, which in this case are rice straw and bamboo.

In addition to technical training, some women are also trained in accounting and administrative management of the company. (You can visit their website: http://mathachhaj.com)

Mathachhaj in the local Kuchi dialect means "a roof above your head", a beautiful metaphor for the wisdom that they are unknowingly passing on to us this friday afternoon.

Here are some images,

 

and learn more about Thatch roof technics here (wikipedia article)