For the past three years, Salt Lake Community College has been involved in a program with the Women’s India Trust (WIT). The program works with women in India who are seeking to become more empowered by learning certain job skills.
The WIT began in 1968 through the efforts of Kamila Tyabji. The teaching was originally intended to train women how to stitch petticoats. Now the WIT trains women on how to manufacture other handmade products. They learn the fundamentals of skills such as sewing, art and making other “cottage goods.”
In the spring of 2008, Karen Gunn, Dean of the School of Professional and Economic Development, was asked to take a trip to Mumbai, India for developmental purposes.
“Initially, we were there to look at developing international curriculum” explained Melanie Hall, marketing manager of Professional and Economic Development.
After touring WIT, however, Gunn had an idea.
“It became clear that the training we offered women here in Utah to be able to start and maintain businesses could work there,” Hall said.
The Women’s Business Institute (WBI) then paired up with WIT in a common goal to educate and empower women.
Although women attend this program for about a year, the Salt Lake Community College representatives only take part in a 10 day curriculum. This curriculum focuses on business marketing. It includes classes discussing how to buy product, creating a market, how to keep cash flow and not eating profits (don’t spend your money). One specific activity involves letting the women set up stations around the city to try and sell their handmade products.
“For these women, it’s not just learning how to manage a business, but learning how to overcome shelter,” Hall said.
Many women involved in this program begin with little to no experience in how to interact with people. This “shelter” becomes the place they are most comfortable with; they learn that a part of business is learning how to step out of your comfort zone.
An important part of WBI is the involvement of students at SLCC. Previously, marketing students could do nothing more than support the system. Now they have the opportunity to be involved in a student-run organization which helps distribute resources for the school in Mumbai. The program is an opportunity for students to really understand how to work internationally in the real world. Because of this, the organization becomes more of a learning environment than the standard classroom.
“Our goal was to have our own students get to learn about doing international business in a very hands-on, real way,” Hall explained.
Students learn about the world trade system, the import and export system, how to distribute product, product development and business regulations. This past semester, students had the opportunity to build their company by choosing a name and logo and how they would package their items.
The WIT was awarded the Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Amodini Award last year for its noticeable difference in the community through the education of women.