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From Andaman To Sundarbans, USHA Silai School Reaches The Remotest Islands And Villages To Empower and Upskill Women

From Andaman To Sundarbans, USHA Silai School Reaches The Remotest Islands And Villages To Empower and Upskill Women
Delhi: 

Beyond the wildest forests, the deepest waters and the roughest seas, the USHA Silai School program is fructifying in the remotest islands of India. The Malyali Muslims of Lakswadeep, the tiger widows of Sundarbans and the tribals of Port Blair, the women from these marginalised communities have been bitten by the 'ambition' bug introduced by USHA. Their lives have changed and still continue to change, as they find their purpose enriched and empowered.

The largest mangrove delta in the world, Sundarbans, has inspired writers, poets and wildlife enthusiasts alike. The sublime beauty of this place is surpassed by the profound mystery of its dense swamp forests. Declared as a UNESCO world heritage site, it is inhabited by 4.5 million people and around 100 man eating tigers. Over the last four decades, more than 3,000 men have lost their lives due to the Human-tiger conflict in the region, leaving a large number of families to fend for themselves.

Also Read: The Women From USHA Silai School Kashmir Make It To The Lakme Fashion Week 2019

To empower the tiger widows of Sundarbans, USHA Silai School program reached out to ten women and trained them to open their own Silai schools. One of these women, Shakeela who hails from a small island village called Kalitala, lost her husband ten years ago to a tiger attack. Her husband's body was recovered after 3 days of his death when the Forest Rangers recognised her husband's head, left by the tiger. Her husband, the sole bread earner of the family, left behind a ten-year-old daughter and two sons, six and two-years-old each.

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We didn't have any financial support after my husband's death, I had no money or food to feed my children. I started fishing but would only make Rs. 20-50 in a day, which was the only income my family saw around the time. Since I had to go fishing in the early hours of the morning and could return only in the evening, my daughter had to quit her studies to take care of her brothers.

Today, thanks to her USHA Silai training, Shakeela runs one of the Usha Silai schools in Kalitala since 2018.  

14 kilometres from Kalitala, lies the village Paljoga, where Namita, another tiger widow, found independence under the USHA Silai School Model.  

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Namita, thanking the USHA Silai School initiative, said,

My son was 10 years old and my daughter was merely 9 months of age, when my husband - the only bread-earner of the family - died in a tiger attack, seventeen years ago. My daughter is physically challenged and I need money for her medical expenses. We struggled for years and I used to take any job that I could find to make money. A while ago, the village Panchayat encouraged me to join the Silai training organised by USHA. The training was for seven days - three days for setting and assembling of machine and the other four were for the stitching classes. With the help of this training and the USHA Silai School initiative, my life has become much better - I am earning well and I can finally take care of my family!

Also Read: It's A Race Against Time For Rohit Bal's Team Of Kashmiri Women Stitching Clothes For The Lakme Fashion Week

Moving on from Sundarbans, several boat rides across the delta, over 2,000 kilometres on road across the Konkan Coast and over the Arabian Sea, USHA Silai School is driving hope and determination in the reclusive Agatti Island of the Lakshwadeep Islands.

29-year-old Shabana, mother of two who runs one of the USHA Silai Schools in Agatti, takes care of her family all by herself, as her husband comes home only once in six months.

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Speaking of the USHA Silai School initiative, Shabana quotes,

I took the 7-days-training from USHA Silai Program back in 2016 after which I started my own Silai School. Presently, there are about 24 students who are being trained in my school and I also advertise my school to get more enrolments. I am not dependent on anyone and I earn enough to take care of my family needs as well as my children's education.

Just like the Lakshwadeep Islands, there is another Indian archipelago, floating in the pristine waters of Bay of Bengal, splendidly isolated Andaman and Nicobar Islands, hold a special place in India's freedom struggle. The capital city of Port Blair is the proud bearer of the iconic national flag, hoisted by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in the year 1943. Today, as a popular holiday destination, it is now known for its enchanting beaches and diverse sea food. Historically, this quaint land has had its share of challenges that has shaped the life of the locals here.

Monika Bijung, a local Silai School teacher was abandoned by her husband ten-years-ago. After going through tough times, as far as contemplating suicide, she heard about the USHA Silai training through an NGO partners. She now runs her own Silai school and has a great number of students. Tapping into her creative side, she even designed a uniform for all her students.

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Speaking about how the USHA Silai School changed her life, Monika says,

I have faced a lot of problems in my life. My husband started drinking after his retirement and was not taking care of the family and children. My elder daughter was 5 years old and the younger kids were 2 and 3 years old, when he left us and I was left alone to fend for my kids and myself. I met C Mohammed from UNATTI NGO who encouraged me to join Usha Silai School.

Also Read: Silai School Opens Up An Opportunity For Women In Kashmir To Be Part Of The Lakme Fashion Week

C Mohammed from the UNATTI NGO who introduced Monika to the world of USHA Silai school states,

The unemployment rate in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is very high. Although this problem is all over India but it is more prominent here. The reason for this is the absence of Industrial sector, the government jobs are at the neutral point and the only alternative is Self Help Groups (SHG). The focus of our NGO is women empowerment and we have been working with many international organizations, Usha International Ltd is one of them. We have trained around 1,200 - 1,500 women in this program.

The USHA Silai School Program has reached the most isolated and magical islands of India to bring empowerment, confidence and independence to women like Monika, Namita, Shakeela and Shabana. It's not just them, there are many like them who are now living an independent life and supporting their families on their own, thanks to the USHA Silai School Initiative.

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