'Roja' means rose in Tamil. This group of tribal women live in Kodamoola, an extremely remote village in the Nilgiris Hills in the state of Tamil Nadu. They live in the middle of the Mudumalai Elephant Corridor and Tiger Reserve. Casual day labour is one of the few income-generating activities in the area. Many of the women and their husbands work as 'coolies', which is the name given to workers who start and control forest fires in the reserve in order to prevent wire fires from ravaging the area during dry periods. This is incredibly demanding work that requires walking long distances from their villages and spending long durations away from home. It is also only seasonal work.
We connected with this group of women through the NGO Palm 2, which opened a pre-school in the village in 2014. Pappa (second from the right) is the school teacher and also a Secret Projects Maker. Many of the children living in the village suffer from malnutrition. By making Secret Sari Dresses, the women are able to earn an income that can contribute towards food expenses and to expanding vegetable farming in the village.