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

India has immense potential for solar energy. It is estimated that India's land area receives approximately 5,000 trillion kWh of solar energy every year, with most areas receiving 4–7 kWh per square metre per day. Millions of people in India's villages, most significantly rural women & young girls, have benefited from solar energy. It has powered many day to day activities, from lighting & cooking to farming & other energy requirements.

One such energy requirement is in order to keep electric sewing machines going. And that is exactly what is happening in the village of Dholi in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where the USHA Silai school centres for training and production are now powered by solar energy. This is thanks to a partnership between TP Renewable Microgrid, a 100 per cent subsidiary of TATA Power and USHA Silai School.

The use of solar power at the village level, through the Silai Schools and Production Centres, not only raises awareness of these environmental-friendly, alternative sources of energy, but also significantly reduces costs for the women running the production centres.

Also Read: In Odisha, USHA And NGO Gram Utthan Are Empowering Women By Providing Employment Opportunities

USHA-TATA Power Training Cum Production has partnered to set up solar powered production centres, training 15 women in 15 days, creating marketable products in bulk. The women who have come for the training, are learning new skills, and also being taught how to increase their output. Earlier, there was great uncertainty about being able to fulfil orders on time, with the electricity going frequently. But the USHA TATA Power training has helped them think out of the box and helped them move one step closer towards becoming independent entrepreneurs, with higher efficiency in delivering orders placed at the production centre.

USHA Silai School trainee, Nitu Singh, narrates how the villagers struggled with irregular electricity and how it created issues in completing orders on time. She said,

We didn't have any solar power. We did have regular electricity, but it was very unreliable. We would find it very difficult to deliver on orders because of the frequent power cuts. But now that we have solar energy, it has become easy for us and we are able to complete orders on time. We used to operate pedal sewing machines which didn't require any electricity. Now we use a combination of solar power & electricity. It helps women work much faster, without fatiguing them as much. If the machine runs on electricity, the work is done at a great speed and women don't get as tired.

Speaking to NDTV, Gudiya Devi, USHA Silai School trainee, said,

I was very keen to learn stitching & sewing, but there was no one to teach me. I love coming here as I can feel the progress in me. I am happy that the one thing I have wanted since childhood, I am able to accomplish today.

Another USHA Silai School trainee, Tarannum Khatum, detailed how the 15 days of training changed her life for good.

We used to stay mostly indoors, inside our homes, earlier. The USHA people came, then there was an exam. The exam was followed by 15 days of training. When we used to stay at home, we didn't know anything. But once we started coming here, we got to learn a lot. We learnt to make kurtis, salwar, petticoats, palazzo, pants and shirts. We were trained for 15 days, and then once the orders began, we started stitching work. As the orders kept coming in, we stitched petticoats, palazzos, kurtis, nighties and many other things.

The training center requires the women to create bulk orders of various types. Working together, using solar powered electricity, these women execute all the orders efficiently, with a speedy rate of output. With solar power, the women have also been able to retain major clients, with the constant supply of electricity helping them execute orders on time. It is giving the women of Dholi fresh energy, quite literally to meet new challenges for growth.

Ms. Nitu Singh said that with the help of TATA Power, the trainees also received orders for masks.

So, fifteen of us completed the work together. When the cloth arrived, we measured it, then it was cut. Then some of the ladies did the stitching, while others ironed the stitched material. Then it was packed and then delivered. We received a good amount for it.

For making masks, Ms Devi bought a machine with the money she had earned from her previous creations.

I bought a machine with the money that I had earned. The order for the flags came next and we worked on it. Little by little, I saved money and bought a machine. I want to move forward.

Speaking on the learnings from USHA and TATA power program, Ms Khatum said,

We learned a lot of skills thanks to USHA and TATA. I didn't know anything earlier. Now, as soon as we receive an order, we cut it and do the stitching quickly. I didn't know any stitching earlier, now I can do it easily. When we needed money in the past, we had to beg our husbands or father-in-law, for even a meagre amount. Now I work and earn my own money.

Also Read: USHA Silai Schools Are Providing Livelihood To The Marginalised Communities Of Assam

Creating a training production centre needs the involvement of an NGO who then acts as the on-ground partner. Here too, the Mahila Kala Kendra along with USHA plays a pivotal role in executing the Silai school's programmes for the welfare of the Silai school women. Together, they are paving the way for the development of rural women in Muzaffarpur, to make independent entrepreneurs of them, by helping them open their own production centres and earn a living.

Santosh Kumar, Project Director, Bhojpur Mahila Kala Kendra told NDTV that the project's main objective was to help rural women get employment and help them boost their income. He said, 

A training cum production centre has been opened as a pilot project in Muzaffarpur, in collaboration with TATA Power. It has been approximately 2 months. There is still no electricity in the villages. There is no telling when it will go, because there are frequent power cuts. In such a situation, the importance of solar power increases to a great extent. A woman's progress should not be dependent on non-availability of electricity. So solar power takes care of a lot of those needs for women.

These programmes could not be implemented without the USHA Program coordinator who are the building blocks of this movement. Operating on the field, they ensure complete coordination in the process of women joining the training, mastering the art of sewing in a space of 2-3 weeks, and then executing multiple orders. They are the strongest link between the facilities of the USHA Silai school programme and the women of India, and without them the huge success of the USHA Silai school programme would be unimaginable.

Project Coordinator, USHA International, Ritesh Kumar Lohani said,

This was a great experience for us and also for TATA Power, given that neither of us had ever initiated such a programme where sewing machines are powered by renewable energy. The use of this solar power by women has increased their productivity. If their productivity increases, their income will increase. If their income rises, there will be prosperity. They can educate their children, they won't have to suffer from malnutrition, and the women can wear good clothes. It will bring development on multiple fronts.

Muzaffarpur is one of two locations where the pilot of the partnership between TP Renewable Microgrid and USHA Silai School has been launched. The eventual target is to benefit over 20 USHA silai centres across 200 villages in UP and Bihar.

Also Read: USHA's First Residential Training Programme In Kargil Gave Birth To 25 Silai Schools In Ladakh

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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.

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