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From Mud Houses To Ritzy Runways, Silai School Women's New Journey

From Mud Houses To Ritzy Runways, Silai School Women's New Journey
Delhi: For the last three years, USHA Silai School programme has empowered given many underprivileged women in India and created opportunities that these women, given their circumstances, never imagined existed. It has given them a sense of equality, independence and the right to not just dream but actually have a fair chance to chase those dreams. Most of these women have led lives devoid of basics, for them poverty is life and hardships the only reality. Resigned to their fate, they never believed that life could be devoid of difficulties and filled with happiness and independence. So when a small step taken to enroll in to a silai school opened up avenues so far non-existent, these women not just grabbed it but they also made the most of it.

Partnering up with various NGOs across the country, the initiative through its silai schools trains women across India to develop their stitching skills. Once trained the women use their skills to earn a livelihood and become financially independent. Most women part of this Kushalta ke Kadam initiative, are now entrepreneurs in their own right. They are not just earning a living by using their skill but are passing on their new learnings to other women in their community. So the success of the initiative is not just that few women learn stitching and use it to make money. The success lies in what these women do after they walk out of the silai school. Apart from setting up their own tailoring units, they set up schools of their own to train more women and create similar opportunities for others in their community.

Call it empathy or just a desire to change the circumstances and not be held hostage, but these women have taken Kushalta ke Kadam and decided to be the beacon for others to follow. And because of that they have earned equality and respect not just within their homes but also in the world outside.

In order to take the campaign to a new height, Kushalta Ke Kadam in collaboration with IMG Reliance decided to come up with a fashion brand that these silai school pass outs will produce in partnership with designers and experts.

This year, we have fashion designers and experts with whom we are trying to identify the latent potential of the women who have already received training in sewing, said Dr. Priya Somaya, the Executive Director of USHA Social Services.

The aim is to provide a larger stage to these talented rural women. A stage where these women under expert guidance will step into the bigger world of business. The genesis of the idea was sown in July 2017. The country was first divided into four regions - Rajasthan, Bengal, Gujarat and Puducherry and an assessment process was carried out to select USHA Silai School women, from these locations, who matched a pre-decided criteria. In order to assist women to produce high-quality garments that echoed the ethos of the four regions, one fashion designer was assigned to each region.

What excited me the most was the opportunity to work at the grass root level and assisting in refining the raw skills of these women, said Soham Dave, designer and owner of a fashion brand.

Assigned to Gujarat, Mr Dave took inspiration from the black sewing machine to conceptualise his clothing line. Working simply on human energy and not electricity, the black foot sewing machine stands as the most sustainable way to make garments in his opinion. Thus, his region would most likely highlight inspiration from the basic black color to minute details of the equipment.
'Amrich' by Amit Vijaya and Richard Pandav , the label assigned to Rajasthan, took another approach to embrace the fashion culture of their region.
 

We were amazed to know that the USHA Silai School programme has been going on for so many years and has helped many women earn their livelihood from it, said Mr Vijaya.

Hesitant at first about the skill levels of these women, the duo were surprised to see the enthusiasm and desire to learn
.

For us, it was really exciting to hear about the underground culture of training women in tailoring. So, we said 'yes' to the opportunity of working with them, he added.

Their final collection has drawn inspiration from the traditional poshak of Jaipur and deconstruct the look to present a collection of chic secedes.

We divided our group in three sections. First of those who are skilled in stitching and can do intricate work, second of those who are fast in stitching and can do lengthy work and finally third is the hand embroidery group, said Sayantan Sarkar, designer and owner of the Sayantan Sarkar Design Studio in Kolkata.

Being assigned to West Bengal, Mr Sarkar's final collection might be an amalgamation of Indian and western silhouettes. As his collection primarily uses a lot of fabric base like khadi, jamdani, and motif weave while incorporating floral motif prints, embroidery and texture to the attires, it would be a nice surprise to see what his group brings to the runway.

Lastly a designer known for his personal zeitgeist, Sreejith Jeevan, was assigned to Puducherry region to help conceptualise a collection that will be true to the French influenced city.

"We are looking at all types of sewing techniques," he said. "This process is very exciting.  All the women are from different villages and since they are already entrepreneurs they have a creative sense of their own which I think is vital to the complete process."

Being generally inspired by the windows which are highly prevalent in the Puducherry architecture, his region's collection should most likely see the use of box pleats and pin tucks as a metaphor to the windowpanes and colorful patches to signify the colorful window panels.

The women are being provided with the required resources to design and produce a fashion line and to be showcased at the major trend-setting event in Mumbai.  

"For the last 6 seasons of Lakme Fashion Week, we have been dedicating one day to showcase a sustainable fashion," said Jaspreet Chandok, Vice President and Head of Fashion IMG Reliance.

As the USHA Silai School women become the flag bearers of this design journey, the wait is now for the final show where these women will get the chance to showcase not just their skills and hardwork but tell their stories through the garments they design.

Also Read: Moving Towards A Fearless Future, Soni From Nithari Village Takes Charge Of Her Life

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Adopt a Silai School

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 NDTV and USHA, aims at empowering women from rural India and encourages them to become entrepreneurs by taking up sewing and training others in their respective communities. Since 2011 Usha Silai Campaign has trained more than 3.95 lakh rural women within five years, with 17,000 Silai schools, spanning over 9272 Indian villages in India.

 

Kushalta Ke Kadam in Season 4 has returned with new goals and vision. The new season will witness the establishment of the new cluster in Kashmir, apart from the existing four clusters setup last year. The women from volatile Kashmir will work with well-known fashion designer Rohit Bal and get an unique opportunity to learn from him and make clothes for him. The work done by the Silai School women will be presented at Lakme Fashion week 2019.

 

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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.

Fashion Designers This Season

More
  • Rohit Bal

    Rohit Bal

  • Sayantan Sarkar

    Sayantan Sarkar

  • Shaila Khubchandani

    Shaila Khubchandani

  • Sreejith Jeevan

    Sreejith Jeevan

  • Swati Vijaivargie

    Swati Vijaivargie

Fashion Designers This Season

More
  • Rohit Bal

    Rohit Bal

  • Sayantan Sarkar

    Sayantan Sarkar

  • Shaila Khubchandani

    Shaila Khubchandani

  • Sreejith Jeevan

    Sreejith Jeevan

  • Swati Vijaivargie

    Swati Vijaivargie