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USHA-MURA Collective Are Teaching Uttarakhand Women To Upcycle Discarded Clothes

The path of ambition can be tough and challenging. But those focused on their goals turn their challenges into chances. Walking these narrow lanes are footsteps heading towards a better tomorrow. Women from 10 villages of Hawalbagh block in the Almora district of Uttarakhand make this journey every day to reach this far-off training centre run by USHA & Mura, where they will be trained not just in sewing, but also in the art of Shibori, on upcycled clothes.

MURA, with the help of USHA, is turning discarded clothes, which would earlier go to waste, into something useful.

Also Read: How Bihar NGO, Bhojpur Mahila Kala Kendra Helped Rural Women Earn Livelihood During COVID-19

Kusum Tiwari, Founder of Mura collective spoke to NDTV about the initial days of the production facility.

We started with 30 girls and women. Thirty of them received the basic training, and then 15 were selected who, as you can now see, are undergoing advanced training and are learning pattern making. These girls will be associated with us for the next 13 months, and will get a monthly stipend of Rs 2,500, along with a transport allowance. In the next 13 months, they will be able to earn close to R 5,000-6,000. We have already given them basic training and now they are learning pattern making. We discovered this craft quite by accident in 2006 for which we won UNESCO awards, four times. We have come here to teach them this craft.

Mura Collective pays the stipend for initial sustenance. For more than a decade, USHA has worked at empowering women from rural India by encouraging them to become financially independent. They have been motivated to become entrepreneurs by taking up sewing and training others in their respective communities. And that is the aim through Mura Collective in Almora as well, but with an added skill & an added benefit. Learning Shibori will increase the quality and value of their products, enhancing their earnings and improving their lives. While making use of unwanted materials in the process will help reduce waste and promote recycling.

Ms Tiwari said.

USHA International is the first organisation that we have collaborated with, and this has given us the courage to move ahead with the project. USHA is providing us with trainers who are their masters in sewing, stitching and pattern making. So, the first collaboration is with USHA. We are also working with IIM-Kashipur, and will continue with them for the next 6 to 12 months. We are getting a lot of support from them. We have also collaborated with an international brand ‘Women On Wings'. It is a social enterprise based in the Netherlands, whose mandate is to help a couple of lakh rural women find employment in the next 10-15 years.

Also Read: USHA Silai Schools Are Breathing New Life Into Old Clothes

To begin with, 30 women were trained in basic sewing, of whom 15 were then selected for advanced training in pattern making. MURA has a long-standing experience in Shibori making but was unable to reach women in the villages. This is where USHA stepped in with their experience of working with women in remote villages. USHA specifically designed modules to gauge the interest, understanding, and capability of these women, customising their programming to the training needs.

Master Trainer of USHA, Veerendra said,

After joining USHA we realised that we can do a really good job of connecting people in the cities with the women of the village, through the work that they do. For this we would need to teach rural women the cutting and fitting prevalent in cities. If women in the village learn that style of cutting and stitching, learn that quality, then it will be easier to find them work and stay connected with the cities.

Getting women to the training centres was a challenge in itself. Around 125 women showed interest in training, but when they were to be selected only half of them turned up. Family restrictions and societal pressures kept many of them away. Another impediment was the 5km road to the training centre, a tough walk in hilly terrain. But that wouldn't deter Kamna who helped her father at his shop making tea and samosas.

USHA Silai school trainee, Kamna Negi said,

After completing my graduation, I was at home, doing nothing. I was helping my father at his shop. We have got a lot of support from USHA and Mura Collective. We get Rs 2,500 per month, which helps in managing monthly expenses. I have learnt many new things. I used to do a bit of stitching earlier, but now I have learnt a lot more, and can find employment opportunities, or even become self-employed.

Also Read: USHA-TATA Power Provide Clean Energy For Sewing Machines In UP's Lakhimpur

Shweta is married and has a 3 year old baby girl. Her daily chores included cooking, cleaning, taking care of the family and feeding the cattle. She was luckier than most when this new opportunity came knocking at her door.

Another trainee, Shweta Negi said,

There was support from the family. My mother-in-law and my husband encouraged me to go and learn. I went there and learnt sewing. After the basic training, I have been selected for pattern making. That is what I am doing currently. I feel good that I have got an opportunity to grow. I want to thank USHA & Mura Collective for giving me a means to earn a living.

Ms. Renu Adhikari, Trainee, USHA Silai school, who takes care of an 18 month old daughter, faced some flak from her neighbours for doing the training. But she stubbornly stayed the course, and is thankful she did.

We have learned a lot with USHA and Mura Collective. I saw and learned what I had always wanted to, skills that will help me earn a living, find a job, and look after my family & other people. What I dreamt of since childhood is taking shape now. USHA and Mura are giving us a lot of support, and we are getting work sitting at home. We don't need to travel very far. Earlier, we would have to travel 30-40 kms outside the village for work. But it won't be the same now. Our trainer has travelled a long distance to get here, and is handling us well. He is teaching us every little thing and method, and we can use this to help our families and community. I want to thank Mura for helping us find work sitting at home and for bringing us this far.

Ms Kamna, Ms Shweta and Ms Renu are among the more than 10 lakh women that the USHA Silai schools have trained into becoming financially self-sufficient, empowered women. It's a huge change in their lives, and one whose ripples will be felt in the community as well, because when you empower a woman you change the destiny of not only her family, but also her community.

Also Read: How USHA-TATA Power Silai Schools Are Utilising Solar Energy In Bihar's Muzaffarpur

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