Kushalta Ke Kadam
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36-Year-Old Preeti Triumphed Over Financial Battles And Became An Inspiration To Many, Thanks To USHA Silai School

36-Year-Old Preeti Triumphed Over Financial Battles And Became An Inspiration To Many, Thanks To USHA Silai School
New Delhi: 

Like many women in rural Uttar Pradesh, Preeti Khushwaha was forced to cut short her studies at a young age due to family compulsions. Discontinuing her studies remained a big regret for 36-year-old Preeti and she felt that because of the lack of education, she would never be able to do anything more with her life. Her family married her off at the age of 18 years after which, as a wife, she was expected to restrict herself to running the household, have children and manage the survival of the family with the meagre income of her husband. She was not allowed to step out the house and work. But she had other dreams which motivated her to break the rules and take the charge of improving her life and the life of her family. She defied societal pressures and with her husband's cooperation she learnt stitching. She now runs a USHA Silai school, imparting skills to many girls and women living in and around her village.

Also Read: USHA Partners With Small Industries Development Bank Of India To Ensure Support To The Silai Entrepreneurs

While talking to NDTV about her journey from fighting for survival to becoming a Master Trainer, Preeti, who lives in Mustafabad village of Bangarmau block in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh said,

I was very young when my father was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. He was already earing very less, just Rs. 2,200 per month but his disease took a bigger toll on my family's situation. My elder brother and I had to give up our education in order to save money being spent on our studies and take up petty jobs to contribute to the household and ensure treatment for my father and the continuation of the education of our three younger siblings. We were facing terrible financial crisis. However, I still regret discontinuing my education even though back then it was needed to be done.

As she turned 18-years-old, Preeti's father decided to get her married but her life was not easy even after the marriage. Her husband had an unstable job and finances were always a worry. Preeti said,

My husband's family was also facing financial crisis. I remember, me, my husband and my two children were basically dependent on the mercy of others. I used to be scared for the future and always used to feel that I have to do something to change the future of my family. But, I used to be very scared too because I couldn't even complete my education, and so who would give me work and how would I earn.

Somehow, Preeti managed to complete intermediate education in 2010, about five years after finishing high-school. While talking about her passion for education, Pradeep Kushwaha, her elder brother said,

After moving out we realized how important education is. Preeti was keen about education and so we filled private examination form. I tried to I helped her in every way that I could and the results were amazing. She cleared all her exams!

In 2011, that she met a volunteer at a local NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) that was implementing a livelihood programme in the village. She got a chance to attend the orientation conducted by that NGO where she got to know about USHA Silai School. This gave her some hope of fulfilling her dream of having a better life with her husband and children. She registered herself for a 7-day residential training from USHA International Limited.

Also Read: USHA Silai School's Skill Training Has Empowered The Vulnerable Including Women Fight The Economic Crisis During COVID-19 Lockdown

The next challenge that came her way was to convince her husband and parents-in-law to let her participate in the training. Preeti recalls,

Being from a very conservative background, my family rejected the idea of their daughter-in-law staying somewhere outside the house, with a bunch of strange women, even if was for some skill training. It took a lot of convincing from me but at least my husband agreed to let me take a chance. He even helped me in my endeavour. I will always be thankful to him for this.

A married woman leaving her house for work for a week may not sound like a big deal in cities, but in rural Uttar Pradesh it was nothing short of a revolution. After a week that was spent being trained in sewing, stitching, embroidery and tailoring, Preeti returned to her village armed with a sewing machine certificate, signage board, syllabus book and a service manual from the Usha international Limited. She was all set to start the first Silai school in her village.

At this point in her life, she faced next big challenge- Convincing the families in her village to let their daughters and daughters-in-law to learn stitching from her and help them earn an income of their own. She said,

I returned from my training excited to impart what I learnt to other women and girls in the village. But there were no takers initially. I was crushed. But I did not let my disappointment end my dream. Even though I was heartbroken by the lack of response, I decided that I would do what it takes to convince people.

Preeti also started stitching clothes for others in her village. Soon she got three students to join her tailoring school. And as the news spread through word of mouth, by the end of the year she had 30 students. Preeti said,

It was not easy at times I used to fall sick but I had that passion to do something in life. I am the first woman in my family and in my village, who has started her own business.

In 2019, Preeti got selected for Indian Quilting workshop held in Chennai where she mastered hand quilting.

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

In March 2019 she opened a new School on rent at Takia, Bangarmau, Unnao which is approximately 10 kilometre far from her village. Preeti did not stop with just the Silai School. She wanted to scale up her work and generate employment for others. She said,

Now, I have purchased a place where I am going to build a big hall so that at least 10 to 12 people can work there with me. For a long time in my life, I had struggled for money. So, I want to create opportunities for women who are struggling as I did. They can come and work with me.

Her newfound confidence and skill has also earned respect in the village. Now her both children had got admission in a good school and she is able to give additional tuition fees for their studies.

So far, Preeti has trained over 500 women from her village and about 1,000 from the nearby villages. Five of her students have opened their own Silai schools in the nearby villages. Today on an average she teaches 24 students every day. She has five sewing machines in her school where she teaches a variety of stitching skills from basic garments to embroidery. She also earns good amount from stitching suit, frock, and other garments for ladies. Overall, her monthly income now is over Rs. 20,000 for which she thanks USHA International. While signing off, Preeti said,

I am so grateful to USHA and all the teachers of USHA Silai School who have helped be become financially independent and live a better life. They have supported and motivated me so much. My husband, who has been so kind and supportive to me at every step, has been my big strength over the years. He gave me the confidence to go out and make a career of my own. I am glad that I am able to help others too in their struggles.

Also Read: With 3,500 New Silai Schools In The State, USHA And West Bengal Government Uplift Thousands Of Women

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Adopt a Silai School

Do you want to be a part of the huge change that Usha Silai School is bringing about in the lives of millions of rural women? With just a simple click of a button, you can now contribute towards the opening of an Usha Silai School or support various other aspects of the school.

About the Initiative

About the Initiative

Kushalta Ke Kadam, an initiative by USHA Silai School and NDTV has entered its eighth season. The aim is to empower more women across rural India by teaching them sewing skills and helping them open new doors of opportunities for themselves. The initiative encourages rural women to become financially independent and entrepreneurs by taking up sewing and training others in their respective communities.


Since 2011, the USHA Silai School initiative has trained more than 12 lakh rural women through over 33,000 Silai schools, spanning over 20,751 villages across India.


The women earn Rs. 4,000 – 5,000 per month on an average, with the highest recorded monthly earning being Rs. 84,000 in a month. This earning works as a catalyst towards building their self-confidence, reducing gender inequities, and raising their stature within their families and in society at large.


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In Pics

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching
Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Rebari girls grow up learning traditional embroidery, which along with their new found sewing skills developed at Usha Silai Schools, is helping them earn a living.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School has empowered many rural women to support their family and send their children to school.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

The Usha Silai School, established in a small nondescript village that goes by the name of Kottai, is helping empower people from varied communities.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

The all-inclusive Usha Silai School Programme covers the entire nation from hamlets tucked between hills to villages cast by the sea.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Vegetables farmers from the Mizoram hills earn very little given the topography of the area. Usha Silai Schools have played an important part in this region by skilling women to financially contribute towards their households.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School learner Lucy has trained seven other women in her community, helping them to become financially independent.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Women like Kaviben from the nomadic Rebari community are finally laying down their roots as they begin to gain financial independence and thereby stability through Usha Silai School.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School, located in the Gujarat's Bhuj village, is enabling rural women to earn as much as Rs. 2,500-4,000 each month.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School, in association with a Gujarat based NGO called Kala Raksha, is trying to bring about a Silai revolution in Bhuj.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Besides training other women from their community, many Usha Silai School learners have become entrepreneurs in their own right.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

With sewing becoming easily accessible and lucrative, the silai schools are also helping revive traditional motifs and designs.