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DMU dance class is tremendous boost for Indian rag picking 'sisters'

Dance students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have been praised after running a class for women in an Indian slum who make their living from collecting rags and selling them for recycling.

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The students are spending just over a week working in and around the slum of Ramapir No Tekro in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, to run dance workshops for some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

It is the latest initiative organised by DMU Square Mile India, which draws on the skills and expertise of students and staff to offer support and raise funds for children living in a special lodge alongside the slum.

The rag-picking women, known as sisters, are part of a project called Paryavaran Mitra (Friends of the Environment), which has been launched by a dedicated team of social workers, young professionals and industry experts, focusing on improving the women’s economic, social and physical well-being.

Ashish Agrawal, Director and Founder of Paryavaran Mitra, said: “We're delighted that the DMU dance students were able to visit our organisation and deliver a workshop for the sisters of Paryavaran Mitra.

“By taking part in the session the women will develop increased confidence while learning new styles of dance. It also allows those who participated in the workshop the opportunity to forget about the realities and responsibilities of daily life in the slum.

“Additionally it has given them the chance to meet people from a country that, realistically, they will never have a chance to visit, therefore increasing their own cultural knowledge.

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“Projects such as this are of tremendous value to the women that we work with.”

The six DMU students – Shannon Coote, Rebecca Marsh, Rosella McNally, Kristina Mirzojeva, Paige Tayla Mitchell and Shannon Thurgood – have travelled with the Leicester-based Moving Together Creative Dance Company which is run by DMU graduates Emily Bolton and Sophie Hocking.

The 30 minute dance session involved traditional Indian dancing and Zumba.

Shannon, an MA Performance Practices student, said: “I was amazed at the energy displayed by the women. They really got into the spirit of the session. 

“Their zest for life, despite the difficult conditions they live in, has particularly struck a chord with me. 

“The experience gained from the trip will definitely be of help in future when I have to adapt workshops for people of different ages and ability.”

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DMU graduate Emily Bolton, co-director of Moving Together, said: “It was an enormous privilege to be given the chance to lead a dance session for the sisters involved with the Friends of the Environment project. 

“The movements we used in the workshop are similar to those that we deliver in Leicester showing that dance is adaptable to a wide range of people.

“These women lead extraordinary lives and it was an amazing opportunity to provide them with a brief escape from life’s pressures. 

“To see the unconfined enjoyment on the faces of the women was incredibly special, and something that I, and the rest of the girls, will never forget.”

Paryavaran Mitra has developed a business model that removes economic exploitation of the sisters and enables them to earn more money.

Leaders have organized 100 women to collect the volume of rags and a team of 10 women do the sorting. Then, unlike other projects, they sell the waste directly to the recyclers.

This enables Paryavaran Mitra to get better returns, which are handed to the women in quarterly profits.

All profits are shared with the women, sometimes in the form of high-quality groceries, school fees, health insurance and more. Through Paryavaran Mitra, project leaders also monitor the women’s health.

This week the Dance students are running classes with the children from the lodge who will put on a performance for parents and supporters on Friday.

For more on the Friends of the Environment project visit www.paryavaranmitra.info You can watch a video on the dance class here

Posted on Monday 9th January 2017

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