Whom did Priyanka Felicitate?

Priyanka Chopra Felicitates USHA Silai School WomenRecently the gorgeous Priyanka Chopra felicitated two USHA Silia School Women at The HAB by Usha, under the Usha Initiatives programme. We all do know who Priyanka is, but what about the two women – Kamar Shaheen and Ms Shivnanada Nagnathrao Kothurwad – she acknowledged for their will towards self-independence? This is their story…

Ms Shivnanada Nagnathrao Kothurwad story could be termed as ‘noir’ if this was fiction, but since truth is stranger than fiction ‘tragic’ is the appropriate word. But the real message of the story is about ‘one’s will to rise above the dire circumstances that fate hands out to us.’ Like a twisted fairy tale it begins with a wedding: She believed that her marriage arranged by her parents would pave the way for her happiness and prosperity in future. But little did Shivnananda or her parents know that she was marrying a person who though professionally a local school teacher, also had a criminal record under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code.

Ms Shivnanada Nagnathrao Kothurwad

Ms Shivnanada Nagnathrao Kothurwad

Thus all hell broke loose in the life of Shivnanda after the marriage. The criminal in the husband began to show his real face with time. Incidences of domestic violence started increasing as time passed with the husband subjecting her to assault and battery for small reasons. There were even three attempts when her husband tried to murder her! Shivnanda had no choice but to run away from the criminal of a husband. She moved to her parents’ home (only as a paying guest) with her 2 young children to Sultanpur village in Nanded district of Maharashtra.

She resolved not to give up and wanted to be economically independent for her children and herself. Her husband had refused any financial support to the children or her. The USHA Silai School initiative came at the most appropriate opportunity for her. She started informing the community about the Silai Schools and gradually due to her expertise she gained popularity through word of mouth and over a period of 1 year she has taught more than 20 learners charging a minimum of Rs 150/- per month. Moreover her job work in the Silai Schools helps her to earn an approximate of Rs 100-150/- per day. Today her income has increased to Rs 6000-7000/- a month. In her own words, Shivnananda puts in, “the income from the Silai School has helped me to send my children to schools and I would like to thank Usha for giving me this opportunity”

The Silai School at Sultanpur village has helped an enterprising woman like Shivnanda come out of the clutches of poverty.  By refusing to go back to her criminal husband she has protected her own life and USHA Silai School has helped her sustain an independent and honorable life.

Creations by Shivnanada

Creations by Shivnanada

Unlike Shivnanada, Kamar Shaheen’s story lacks the darker shades of human nature, however it is one again of abject poverty and the will to rise above it. She is from an interior village called Bilora in Amravati district of Maharashtra. Daughter of a fruit seller and housewife, Shaheen and her family spent her childhood in acute poverty. However, her parents ensured that Shaheen attended the local village school to complete her Class XIIth.

Untitled-1 copyDuring her schooldays, she developed a penchant for sewing and stitching from her mother. This preliminary skill learnt from her mother and her determination to come out of economic hardships made her one of the best potential candidates for starting the Usha Silai School in her village. When the Usha’s local NGO partner contacted her, she was enthusiastic about the programme. With a resolve to succeed in this endeavor, Shaheen started her own Usha Silai School in Feb 2012 after being trained.

Gradually, the Silai School gained momentum and girls from near and far started attending her Silai School. Today, there are about 20 learners enrolled in her Silai School. Her income now is approximately Rs 5000/- per month. During festive seasons of Ramzan and marriage seasons her earnings go up to a minimum Rs 250 to 300/- per day from the job work she gets. Usha Silai Schools have helped her achieve her dream of economic independence.

To Know More Visit: www.ushainitiatives.com

Priyanka’s Day Out With USHA

Priyanka Chopra with USHA Director Chayya Shriram

Priyanka Chopra with USHA Director Chhaya Shriram

There is something lacking in the word ‘Marvelous’ to describe Priynaka Chopra, because she is so much more than that. Priyanka recently visited The HAB by USHA at Mumbai and charmed everyone. Beginning with her sewing to punching skills, she added even more charm to the beautiful interiors of The HAB.

Priyanka Chopra on the USHA JANOME Seiwng Machine

Priyanka Chopra on the USHA JANOME Seiwng Machine

A little experienced in sewing she claimed, growing up their first family sewing machine was an Usha one. She also showed off a few punches wearing designer gloves made on Usha Janome Sewing machine. Following which she stitched for herself a hand band with ease on the same machine. Later she was gifted a stitched portrait of herself masterfully crafted on the USHA Janome Memory Craft – a machine as marvelous as Priyanka, which is capable of creating any design the user wishes, against all odds! Walking around The HAB she amused all, with her antics of carrying a Duffle-Bag and trying on a skirt, all of which were crafted at The HAB.

Priyanka Chopra being gifted with with the sewn portrait

Priyanka Chopra being gifted with the sewn portrait

She went on to show us some real punches on an Usha Punching Bag along with Usha Director Chhaya Shriram. Following which she felicitated two Usha Silai School women for their achievements and never-say-die attitude. Speaking on the occasion, she appreciated and applauded the work done by Usha Initiatives through its over 4000 USHA Silai Schools spread across the country that have empowered women in rural areas. Connecting the dots she further added that one of the primary themes of the movie Mary Kom is women empowerment, which Usha has managed to accomplish in real life all across the country. She ended with thanking USHA, saying that without the brand’s contribution the movie Mary Kom wouldn’t have been possible.Priyanka Chopra Felicitates USHA Silai School Women

She was later spotted at the TISVA store – a Designer Lighting Store perched above The HAB. Where among glamorous chandeliers and sleek contemporary lights she lit a traditional Indian Diya accompanied by Mr. Krishna Shriram.

Priyanka Chopra at TISVA

Priyanka Chopra at TISVA

To Know More Visit: www.ushainitiatives.com       For TISVA Visit: www.lifebytisva.com

Free Sewing Tutorials: Where Knowledge is Free

Gandhi copyUSHA Initiatives brings Gandhian principles to the new age by adopting new technologies to empower women and thereby awaken the world to new possibilities: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high / Where knowledge is free…” (Rabindranath Tagore)

On 21, October, 1936 Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur “If you women would only realize your dignity and privilege, and make full use of it for mankind, you will make it much better than it is.” The Father of the nation believed both in women empowerment through education and the power of the Spinning Wheel. USHA Initiatives with the help of the growing power and penetration of Internet in the country is trying to reach out to self-motivated women either with a passion for sewing or beginners who would like to take it up as a source of income or hobby.

Besides its many Silai Schools, USHA has made available a series of free downloadable Sewing tutorials under various titles. These books range from basic sewing tutorials to complex stitching and tailoring of garments and embroidery work. The Books so far released are:Downloads

  1. Indian Garment Design Course Book
  2. Little Girls Dress Making Course Book
  3. Machine Embroidery Course Book
  4. Western Casual Wear Course Book
  5. Sewing and Design Course Book
  6. Creative Design Course Book
  7. Cutting and Tailoring Course Book

Each Book caters to different needs and together contains thousands of instructions on how to sew, starting from the basics of a stitch and fiber choice to complete garments, home décor items and fashion accessories.

You can download them at: www.ushainitiatives.com/free-sewing-courses or at the Usha International website

Usha Silai School: Breaking Gender Barriers

Logo-03Among the Top Ten Commandments enforced by traditional and regressive backward-looking  rural Indian communities the first duly states “Thou (women) shall do all hard labour at home and fields, while men being the bread earner will dictate the 9 other rules!”

Usha Initiatives through its Silai Schools are not just about sewing and tailoring, one of its primary aims through these training programmes is to break this unholy sacrament forged unjustly by a misogynist society. Not to blog our own trumpet, but Usha Initiative has thus far succeeded in its own little ways, helping women to transgress gender roles every now and then.

The story of  Mrs. Saroj Namdew, a resident of Satlapur village of Raisen district in Madhya Pradesh, is one such. She belongs to an OBC family. A mother of three – one daughter and two sons. Her household spiraled down towards chaos and poverty when her husband lost his job during one of the company retrenchments. However Saroj did not take to self pity or the village commandments, instead she stepped up to improve her family’s condition by joining a Usha Silai School training programme and later opening one on her own at home.

Saroj NamdewShe recalls ““Pati ke naukri jaane ke baad, hamare pariwar ki  stithi bahut kharab ho gayi thi, fir maine soch liya ki mujhe apne pariwar ke liye kuchh karna hai aur tab main NIWCYD ke  pramod bhaiya se mili aur USHA company ki madad se silai traning maine liya” (after my husband lost his job, my family condition became very bad. Then I resolved to do something for my family. With the help of NIWCYD and USHA I attended the sewing and stitching training)

Over the course of time she has trained over 30 women and even started her own tailoring business. However her greatest achievement lies in motivating her husband to learn sewing and stitching. Initially her husband was reluctant to undertake this task. After much persuasion, he agreed to get trained under her!  Today both husband and wife work in the Silai School and their income is about Rs 5000/- a month.

Mohini

Mohini

Mohini’s story is a similar one. A twenty eight year old, mother of a 4 year old son she hails from Delitalai village in Bikaner district of Rajasthan. Her husband works as a cleaner in a nearby NGO earning a meager amount – not enough to support a family of three. After attending the Silai School Programme under Usha Initiatives, today Mohini, is not just an Usha Silai School teacher but she is also running an NFE Centre. And o’course is the chief bread earner of the family.

There are many such other inspiring stories where women have broken gender barriers to take destiny in their own hands. In the video below we present a testimonial by another such woman:

For more such videos Click Here

Usha Silai Schools Working with Magnificence

Usha Silai SchoolsWe all gleam with achievement now that Polio has been eradicated – a milestone that we are all proud about. Oblivious in our pride we have somehow forgotten the people who are still afflicted by it. Do you still feel proud?

A lot needs to be done, but Usha Initiatives does feel proud of Ms. Laxmi Maheshwari from Bhuj Gujarat. Though both her legs are polio afflicted and she still lives with her parents confided between four walls, she is no longer dependent on them but instead supports them! Thanks to a simple seven days Sewing Course and an Usha Sewing Machine given free of cost to her as part of the Usha Silai School Programme.

After the training Laxmi, started a Silai School on her own village. Initially, due to her mobility impairments, she found it extremely challenging to mobilize students from the village. The village women and girls were also skeptical about coming to her as they doubted her abilities as a teacher. After much convincing, she acquired 2 students and thus began her Silai School. Her teaching was extremely good and through word of mouth her skills gained great popularity in the village. More students came to enquire about the school and numerous got enrolled. Laxmi has trained about 15 women/ girls and 8 are pursuing their training currently at her School. With time, Laxmi’s confidence grew more enabling her to start a tailoring shop as well. Today, the village women come to her for getting most of their clothes stitched.

Ms. Laxmi Maheshwari from Gujarat Similarly, Purnimasi Devi is a very important person. But you haven’t heard of her. Yes, you have heard of Mary Kom who comes from the same Northeastern state of India, Manipur.  Perhaps if they make a movie about Purnimasi you will pay attention! Go ahead do a Google search. Found her? No. Why should Google pay attention to her, when you being her fellow citizen have neglected her and millions like her?

Let Usha Initiatives introduce Purnimasi Devi to you. She is the icon of a small village  near Imphal. No, she didn’t win any medals for her village, but she changed its socio-economic landscape. Like Mary Kom she comes from a very poor farming community, where her father is a private school teacher – earning a meager income once in a while since the school does not receive regular Govt. grants. Purnimasi’s father has to depend on this irregular incomes to take care of his family.

Purnimasi’s amazing triumph lies is the fact that she helped to draw her family out of this abject deep dark hole of poverty and uncertainty. Today, Purnamasi not only supports her father in the household needs but also bears the educational expenses of her four younger sisters and a brother.  And she does it all through her Usha Silai School. An initiative started by Usha which empowers rural women in the country by teaching them sewing and basic machine repair. Not only does she takes on sewing work but also has 22 students under her.purnismasi copy Ace Boxer Magnificent Mary Kom felicitated five such women from different parts of the country at a Mumbai event held by Usha in association with Viacom. They were all recognized and awarded for their successes against impossible odds. To Read more Click Here: www.ushainitiatives.com

Silai Schools Fights Opium Addiction

Opium or doda, as popularly known in Rajasthan, is largely known for all the wrong reasons. The USHA Silia School team visiting the bordering villages of Pakistan in Western Rajasthan in Bikaner district witnessed the massive ill-effects of opium on healthy human population. Opium is offered and consumed in these villages as a socially sanctioned gesture (when people visit each other’s home on social occasions and otherwise). The prevalence and usage of opium is so rampant that it has resulted in a colossal decline of health of most of the male population in the villages. Bed-ridden opium addict men in the age group of 25 -40 years, is a common sight when you walk through the villages. Since such men cannot contribute to the family income, it becomes imperative for the women to work for a living. However this becomes all the more daunting for the women, as agriculture work in these dry arid areas is difficult and social norms restrict these women from going out of the village.

Suva Kanwar

Suva Kanwar

This human interest story is of one such Silai School teacher named Suva Kanwar aged 38 years, in the village called Bhelu Ki Dhani , some 135 kms from the  Bikaner district headquarters . Suva has never been to a school and has learnt some basic calculations all by herself. She is married to a person who is an opium addict and from whom she had 3 children. The addiction habit of the husband cost a fortune for the family (Rs 1500/- a month on medicines etc. ) and this was meted out by Suva Kanwar by selling all the land and other assets that they possessed. Her son, aged 10 years, was sent to work as a child labour, in one of the restaurants in district Mathura in the state of UP. Her daughters had to drop out of school in order to help her in the household chores. Hence due to the opium addiction of the husband, the entire family got into a deplorable state of affairs financially, physically and educationally.

Suva Kanwar was determined to take her family out of this vicious circle. Hence she wanted to move out of her village to work. But social restrictions prevalent amongst the Rajput communities prevented her from moving out of the village. At one point Suva Kanwar did not have any idea about the road ahead. She could neither move out nor stay in the village.

Not until, the organisation called Urmul Seemant Samiti, a partner organisation of Usha International Ltd, implementing the Silai School Program came in contact with her, with a suggestion to her to start the Silai School. She was identified as one of teachers to run Silai School in her village -Bhelu ki Dhani. The 7 days residential training, held at Bikaner that she attended proved to be a life changing event for Suva Kanwar as this helped her to start a Silai School at her own home.

Post training,   “armed’ with the Usha Silai School Signage, a syllabus and a new found confidence and hope, Suva Kanwar started to undertake community meetings, door-to-door visits, informing people about the Usha Silai Schools. 2 girls from the neighbouring families enrolled at her school. Word spread far and wide about Suva Kanwar’s Usha Silai School. The signage added to the excitement and curiosity of the people. This was the first time a “resource” had been started in the village after the inauguration of the Govt Primary School or the Primary Health Centre (PHC). The community whole-heartedly supported her initiative and enrolment of women and girls in the Silai School gradually increased and today she is teaching 12 women in her Silai School. About 18 students have successfully completed their courses in this Silai School.

Today Suva Kanwar earns Rs 4000-5000/- a month from this effort. To put the effects of increased income in her own words she says, “My daughter has resumed her school. I want to bring my son back home. My husband’s supply of medicine is today uninterrupted and most importantly meri izzat bahut bad gayee hai “ (people’s  respect for me has gone up)

When asked about her future plans she says enthusiastically, “I will shift this silai school to the village crossing. In this way, more learners will be able to have access to my school”.

The Usha Silai School has stitched joys in her life in more than one ways.

Silai School: Living With Dignity

Shivavathi

Shivavathi

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.

Najira

Najira

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.

Ganga Devi

Ganga Devi

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.

Nasiba Begum

Nasiba Begum

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.

Sushmita Das & Rubina Begum

Sushmita Das & Rubina Begum

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.