Shivavathi lives in a small nondescript village that goes by the name of Tallavalasa in what used to be former Andhra Pradesh. Suffering from poverty without any source of income, life was cruel and hard, till she attended a seven day Silai School programme. And her life changed overnight, rather in that one week, which not only gave her new skills but also the confidence to be an independent woman in a male dominated society. Today she is a part-time faculty member at a Polytechnic!
Or take the story of Najira Gazi from Joyanagar West Bengal, who after attending the Silai School programme became a teacher in her village imparting sewing skills to other less-fortunate women like her. The fees she earned through these classes enabled her to continue her education, which she had given up earlier due to financial constrains.
There are many such heartwarming stories of a million Shivavathis’ and Najiras’ living unacknowledged in the many villages of India. Usha through its Silai School initiative is trying to empower these marginalized women to lead more respected lives.
The programme trains women over a seven day period on sewing, stitching and embroidery skills, along with basics of sewing machine repair. Every participant is also given an Usha Sewing machine free of cost to start a Silai School in their own village and impart sewing skills to others.
One of the significant features of this programme is its inclusiveness as it makes it a point to empower HIV positives, trans-genders and physically challenged women. For instance take Ganga Devi from Anantpur, who happens to be a handicapped. Her husband abandoned her because of her disability, leaving her without any source of income or respect. The Silai School programme helped her to earn a living and regain her dignity. Today she makes as much as Rs 5000 per month.
These may not be the archetypal rags to riches stories but nevertheless are life affirming ones, filled with hope and mended dreams, which had once broken. Like Nasiba Begum from Kashipur Orrisa, who weaved her own story of survival and today is an entrepreneur selling her brand of Blouses and Petticoats at the village market. Besides success need not always have monetary strings attached, sometimes it may simply involve love and respect. As Sushmita Das from Dahisadas Orissa and Rubina Begum from Khumtai Assam found out, not only did their sewing skills improve their economic status but also brought them recognition from their families.
We promise to bring to you many such inspiring stories from all across the sub-continent paying homage to the achievements of the down-trodden and the marginalized. Struggles which otherwise would have gone unrecorded. For their stories need to be told.
The Usha Silai School initiative was started in 2011, there are more than 3190 Silai Schools operating already across India, Nepal and Sri Lanka and the number is growing at about 1000 per year.