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Manipur's Yarshang Shimray Is Leading The Way To Eco-Friendly Fashion By Recycling Old Clothes

Driving for over an hour from Manipur's capital Imphal, out into the countryside, past lush green paddy fields, one reaches Thoyee Thawai Village in Ukhrul district. The village has mostly tribal families, most of them do farming in the distant foothills. Some run small businesses. 36 year old Yurthingwon Ronra Shimray and her 47 year old husband Yarshang Ronra Shimray are busy talking about their daily expenses The couple have 3 children, all of whom go to school. Their family had once struggled to make both ends meet until Shimray joined the USHA Silai training and later started her own branch of the USHA Silai school in the village.

Ms. Shimray married her husband in 2007. He worked as a teacher then, but in 2016 he had to resign because of serious health issues. With the only earning member of the family out of a job, Shimray decided to start earning. She started making traditional clothes, and helping others on their farmlands.

Also Read:  UHSA-MURA Collective Are Upcycling Discarded Clothes With The Help Of Uttarakhand Women

As her husband's health improved, her father-in-law helped them buy an auto-rickshaw. But it wasn't enough to run the family smoothly. That is when the Silai school came hand. Today Shimray earns money not only by sewing and stitching and providing training at her Silai school, but also runs an innovative project of recycling dumped clothes and turning them into utility products like bags \.

Ms. Shimray's husband, Yarshang G Shimaray, said,

She now takes care of our children's school expenses and also kitchen expenses through Silai school project earnings. It all started during the pandemic that the Silai school project took off better as everything was closed so whatever she was stitching was getting sold and this way we earned , and thus project is not only has helped her generate income but other village women are joining her to learn and they have also started to earn as well.

Once her husband leaves Shimray gets busy cooking and wrapping up her daily chores. Shimray comes from a large, but poor family. Her father worked as a Land Surveyor at the Sub Divisional Magistrate's office, but had to resign due to health problems. A young Shimray was forced to drop out of school after finishing her class 10 exams.

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

She got married at 23, and life after marriage continued to be challenging. Once she had started earning by making traditional Manipuri clothes, Shimray came to know about the Usha Silai School from the local NGO- People's Development Society. She joined a 7-day residential training camp, and then further learnt entrepreneurial skills to open her own USHA Silai School.

With the household chores sorted, Shimray leaves to work on her innovative project. Recycling waste clothes. Shimray's idea was to recycle used clothes from the many villages near her silai school, to make fabric bags. She has been doing this since June 2021, and was joined by 2 women from nearby villages in collecting old clothes and stitching bag.

Ms. Shimray said,

In 2020 I got training in USHA silai school , and after I started my silai school , I have trained 22 students and now there are 3 present student and now my monthly average incvome through stitching , training and sewing is about 10 to 12 thousand and sometime I make about 15 thousand as well in month. I can stitch a bag, baby frocks, dresses and even wedding gowns and I sell at wholesale rates.

 The process involved is very innovative. There are a few collection centres like this one where villagers dump their old and unused clothes. Shimray and her team come by periodically to collect them After collection, they sort the clothes according to different fabrics, colours and garment types. Then they wash the sorted clothes and iron them before drafting, cutting and stitching the bags. As her products gained traction in the local markets, she started involving other women to help with the collection, sorting, and stitching Shimray pays these women Rs 30 per bag of clothes collected.

Apart from bags, they also make children's dresses, shirts and shorts with the unwanted clothes collected from the village. The idea of recycling has brought a big turn-around in Shimray's life.

Ms. Shimray said,

I spoke to village authorities and called a community meeting and discuss the recycling of cloths idea , in our village every women has a talent we showed my dress and bags to them they liked it. I convinced my friends , that don't through the dump cloths, we can develop idea of how to make best use , recycle the into products , soon we started to go and convince people in the colonies and collect waste cloths for recycle.

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

During the pandemic, Shimray came to know about online training classes organised by USHA Silai School. She joined the class and learned many aspects of drafting and designing bags. Now she stitches the bags using traditional fabric that she weaves herself. Instead of simply selling traditional pieces, she incorporated some modern designs that helped her to enhance cash in-flow. With other school teachers and learners in the cluster, she watched YouTube videos to get ideas from there on how to make the bags. But convincing people she was on to a good thing took some doing.

Speaking of her initial experience, Ms. Shimray said,

At first when I learned sewing and stitching, the people would not support me, they would taunt me. They said it's not a good idea, you have to work hard. They called me it's a lazy jib.. but when I made the bags, and other stuff, my friend first became interested and soon women turned up to learn stitching, drafting and sewing.

She has trained 15 village women so far. She charges a monthly fee of Rs 500. In a month, she earns Rs 8000/- to 12000/- and she is a role model for many. Silai school student, Ramchanphi spoke to NDTV about her experience in the training.

We go to collect the waste cloths and then start filling the buckets with cloths and then we process the cloths for cutting and stitching and sell them to the villagers to generate income for us and support the family. After we started doing this, other women also came forward to join us, in collection of dumped and waste cloths and also to learn sewing and stitching.

Another student, Rosi Longba, said,

I joined the project in July , the sewing programme in her village is very important since when the clothes tear, we could stitch only by needle, hand sewing but now we have learned how to sew with a sewing machine and it is fast and comfortable. I have been trained for 3 months, I and other students have started to sew by ourselves and we have started earning. Previously we did not have any income but now we are earning on our own. After generating income, I could help my family financially and we are more interested in the recycle project and we are so happy that this started here.

This initiative has not only helped Shimray & her students boost her earnings, it has also helped Shimray manage her family and provide good food and an education for her children. They are also winning accolades from the community for making use of dumped clothes and turning them into utility products – breathing new life into old clothes.

Watch: Reliable Power Supply For The Electric Sewing Machines

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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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