December 1997. A memorable month and year that I met and got hitched to ‘my man in white’. And, should I also say, got officially inducted into the command family support system – in my case, Naval Wives Welfare Association (NWWA).
Self-sustainability, community support, education, health care, welfare and environment conservation are the key aims of the Association. Being a voluntary organisation, we follow an ‘open door policy’ for all volunteers and this helps in active participation by members at any stage in any of the activities of the Association. Commenced in 1948 as Naval Officers’ Wives Association, it was renamed in 1986 as Naval Wives Welfare Association, since it now involves all naval personnel as members. Women members actively volunteer in the various activities of the Association and contribute their mite.
Learn and earn
With an objective that follows an approach of “learn and earn”, various hobby and professional courses are conducted by the Association to help the women members to become self-reliant. ‘Tarsh’ (Thirst, Wish, Desire) – a block printing unit has been set up in all the regions to train ladies in this traditional art, and that includes mixing and preparing different colours from scratch. They are taught to make block printed sarees, bedsheets, curtains and table covers, which are then sold in the shop ‘Samudri’ that is run by the ladies themselves.
‘Udyogika’, our tailoring and handicraft unit alongwith ‘Pragati’(Progress) help inculcate various skills among women through hand embroidery, painting, tailoring, baking, beautician courses, etc. The amount of hidden talent that comes to the fore at these workshops is amazing and helps in building self confidence among the participants.
‘Sparsh’, an outreach programme helps by reaching out to the underprivileged in orphanages and old age homes that are run in that State. Deserving students are identified in the orphanages, and their education is sponsored and their progress monitored from time to time. Physical and mental health of the women are also given due importance. The Command Hospital periodically conducts health and sanitation camps, and women are encouraged to attend it.
A military wife is stronger than she knows, braver then the rest. Yet, even the toughest of the tough sometimes go through a crisis and need that ‘healing touch.’ NWWA provides in-house professional counseling and timely assistance, helps families cope with the stress of marital, parenting and learning disorders.
To empower Navy wives, in 2016, NWWA in collaboration with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences started a three year Diploma/ Advanced Diploma/ B. Voc Degree course in Early Child Development (ECD). One of the key features of this course is that the lady has the option of picking up from where she left off, in case of transfers, at the next station. The second batch of the course is successfully running in Delhi, and plans are afoot to start in Kochi and Vizag.
NWWA is committed in preserving the environment and is involved in a number of green initiatives in which children of the naval staff are encouraged to participate. ‘Prakriti’ (Nature) is one such initiative that endeavours to build awareness of the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle waste for a cleaner and healthier tomorrow. Waste management which involves segregating the wet and dry waste is another project in full swing in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and emulated in the entire southern region. Dry garbage is deposited by the residents at a Center specially created at a location at the naval base. The wet waste collected is dumped in the compost pits to produce manure, which is then sold.
‘Milan’ is a meeting of like and unlike minds, where the lady members gather to have an hour of fun once a month. These meetings helps to showcase hidden talents and the ladies also bond over other mundane matters. Beauty tips, health talks, parenting skills, etc., are freely shared, and women do what they love to do…dress up!