Women in Asia's largest prison in India design jewellery to prepare for life outside

Published: March 8, 2018
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An inmate at Tihar Jail, the largest complex of prisons in South Asia, makes decorations for an event to mark International Women's Day in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

An inmate at Tihar Jail, the largest complex of prisons in South Asia, makes decorations for an event to mark International Women's Day in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI: Women inmates of Asia’s largest prison sit hunched over, with pencils in hand, sketching designs for jewellery, as their guards watch.

They are learning techniques to help them become independent, in a certificate course offered by the gem and jewellery skill council of India at the Tihar jail in New Delhi, the capital.

“By concentrating on these things, I even forget where I am,” said one Indian woman. “I have a lot of tension and this frees my mind from all those tensions.”

A large number of Tihar’s total of nearly 14,000 inmates are those still under trial, their fate yet to be decided by India’s lengthy judicial process.

“It broadens our horizons, it shows our creativity,” said another inmate, a foreigner. “I have a 10-year-old daughter and when I am designing, I do it basically as a memory of her.”

There are more than 400 foreigners in the jail serving sentences for crimes ranging from murder to trafficking.

Prison staff say the program helps relieve stress, and banishes the temptation to return to a life of crime when inmates leave, by giving them the skills to support themselves.

“We are working on this skilling initiative so that when they leave prison they have something to rely on,” said Shimoy Rose, the superintendent of the women’s section of the prison.

“They can also earn their own livelihood, and this empowers them financially, so they feel more confident in society.”

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