Page last updated at 12:13 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Henna inspires computer animation

By David Reid
Reporter, Click

Rubeena Bellam
Rubeena Bellam hopes to become an animator one day

Rubeena Bellam knew nothing about graphic design when she first started classes six months ago.

She is taking part in a project that teaches computer animation to uneducated women in the Indian city of Hyderabad.

"Technology for the People" trains those skilled at drawing Henna tattoos to create designs. It also sends their work to production companies.

Until now, the future for 20-year-old Rubeena consisted only of marriage. Now she wants to prove to everyone she can be an animator.

The project aims to help women earn money and lift them out of poverty using technology - which has enjoyed a boom in and around Hyberabad.

To get the girls out of their families is a big deal for us
Shopha Uttam
Technology for the People

Rajen Varada from the Technology for the People development group said he wanted young women to be able to benefit from the national boom in hi-tech that has swept through the South Asian nation.

"The idea was to find ways to give them an opportunity to tap into this economy... so we developed an animation course which allows them to get that."

"We train them in six months so they know what animation is all about... we take them to the animation company and they learn real-time work," he added.

A talent for intricate Henna work is developed by slowly guiding students towards producing figurative animation on paper and eventually on a computer.

'Continuous struggle'

However, the women's chances of success depend largely on their families and India is still a conservative society.

Young uneducated women tend to have fairly limited prospects because they are earmarked for marriage and child rearing from an early age.

Indian girls using computers
Technology for the People is helping girls to earn money for their families

Technology for the People faces a "continuous struggle" to break with this pattern by getting the family onside from the start.

Shopha Uttam from the project noted that many girls are taken out of the education system simply for being girls.

"Parents don't want them to go out of their houses," she said.

"The initial meeting with the parents is not enough, we have to continually do a follow-up of maybe four or five visits. Only after that do they get convinced and then they send the girls. To get the girls out of their families is a big deal for us."

The animation course is a chance for the young women not only to get out of the house, but also learn a skill and earn money.

And their earning power of 3,000 to 5,000 rupees (42-70) a month means they can bring an income home to their families.

"That kind of money suddenly makes her a valuable commodity. I am sorry to use that word, but that's what happens," Mr Varada said, "and she becomes a negotiator in her family."

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