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Salma Bano's Journey From Facing Financial Hardships To Becoming A Successful USHA Silai School Teacher

Salma Bano's Journey From Facing Financial Hardships To Becoming A Successful USHA Silai School Teacher

From facing despair and anxiety after her husband's death, to becoming an USHA Silai School teacher and a local resource person (LRP) - it has been a remarkable decade for 41-year-old Salma Bano from Uttar Pradesh's Rae Bareli district. Ms. Bano grew up in a poor Muslim family and faced a lot of hardships. After her father's death, her younger brother supported her education. But she could only complete high school and was married at the age of 18. Financial instability was a part of her married life too. But that wasn't the end of her troubles.

She had to witness her husband's death due to ill health, after which the entire responsibility for her two children, their education and other household expenses fell on her. She was also a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her in-laws which led her to live separately with her children. Ms. Bano was looking for livelihood and since she had studied till high school, and had basic understanding of sewing, she worked on some projects with a local NGO. But after 2-3 years the project wound up.

Also Read: USHA Is Reviving And Promoting Jharkhand's Traditional Sports 'Archery'

A few years ago, Ms. Bano came to know about the USHA Silai school programme in Raebareli and was selected for a training which would help her open her own school. There has been no looking back for Ms. Bano after that and she has since seen a series of successes and a much improved financial situation. She said,

When I came to Jagatpur, a month after my husband died, I used to be very upset. At that time, I only had Rs 45. A neighbour of mine lent me money and my family & brothers supported me in performing all the rituals. Then I met a lady who worked in the bank. She introduced me to Mr. Anil Dube, who's here with us. He gave me a lot of courage. When I was doing the CIP training, I would be despondent & cry. But the other women would attempt to cheer me up by singing and dancing. All of these women, and Mr Dube, have a huge role to play in helping me deal with my circumstances.

Ms. Bano wishes to move to a big city to ensure her children a better future.

My girl has completed her Bachelor's degree and I wish her a world of opportunities. I want my son to get a government job. I am helping him prepare for the armed forces and I am doing all of this on my own. I look back and realise how I had started with only 45 rupees and today I have bought a plot of land in Jagatpur, in the main city.

Over the years, Ms. Bano increased her skill and knowledge by participating in different capacity building programmes such as the Life skill Training programme, Master Trainers training programme and she has now taken on a new role and responsibility of being an LRP - or Local Resource Person. This means she can now conduct short- and long-term training courses for other women across Uttar Pradesh.

Ms. Bano now has the experience of conducting short term or Satellite Silai school training of 55 teachers in 5 batches and Classical or longer duration Silai School training of 80 teachers in 7 batches. She is also providing handholding support to more than 200 teachers through phone and WhatsApp groups. Ms. Bano is always bringing new ideas and designs for the benefit of the programme. Apart from financial stability and respect, she has earned her identity as Trainer, Motivator, and Counsellor.

I feel that if my talent is limited to myself, then I cannot do much. But when I teach others, not only does that help me move forward but it also encourages other women to learn and get employment. In fact, I make house visits to meet and talk to young women who are unable to leave their homes to come to our school. Now, I have courage in me. Earlier, I didn't have the courage to travel by myself. but this has changed. Today, It is because of USHA that I travel to other districts. I have visited Sonbhadra, Gorakhpur, Chandauli and Bahraich. Slowly and gradually, I have gained confidence because of USHA. I have started travelling alone.

Also Read: USHA-Malabar Social Service Society Organises Its First Kalaripayattu Mahotsavam 2022 In Kerala

There are two types of training provided by USHA - classical and satellite. Satellite training lasts for two days while classical goes on for nine days in which the technician teaches us about the machine and its mechanical parts. Ms Bano explained how the technician familiarises them with the sewing machines - from getting comfortable with opening the machine and to learning how to fix. He also details the different types of needles used in sewing and stitching.

I stepped in after two days. I teach how to make a stitch and work with that. I also teach them how to operate the sewing machine.

Currently, around 10 learners attend Ms. Bano's Silai school. She charges Rs 250/- a month from each learner, and Rs.50 as an admission fee. She is now earning Rs. 2500 from learners' fees, and Rs. 8000/- from stitching work. On an average, Ms. Bano earns Rs 8000-10000 rupees a month from her USHA Silai school. In training programmes, she earns Rs.2000-3000 as additional income.

Ms. Bano also takes up other market opportunities to add additional income for herself and her learners. When the country was hit by the coronavirus outbreak, Ms. Bano suffered from financial instability.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all shops closed suddenly and I had very little money with me. Schools were also closed at that time, so I had some amount left from my children's school fees. I started making masks with whatever cloth material I had and distributed them. Additionally, I sold some and earned around 15 to 20,000 rupees.

Also Read: USHA International Revives Manipur's Traditional Sport 'Thang Ta' Among Youngsters

USHA Silai School Programme Coordinator,Vijay Pandey detailed how the initiative is turning rural women into entrepreneurs.

Through the Silai School programme we are turning these women into entrepreneurs. Some of these women had unique leadership qualities. So, such women started taking on more responsibilities. They began counselling and motivating other women. The women who had started taking the responsibilities possessed certain technical skills. So, we identified some of them as master trainers and worked on their sewing and stitching skills, and many now work as Local Resource Persons (LRPs).

 LRP's are those women who are already employed as Silai school teachers. These women are associated with the programme for at least three years and are competent administrators of the Silai school program.

LRP's are the backbone of all the programmes we run and we want these women to support the nearby clusters and villages. We want them to work at block and district levels. We want to connect the women entrepreneurs with the government schemes that are available.

Today, Ms. Bano not only manages her training and stitching, but also steps out regularly to mobilise other women, encouraging them to be self-employed and learn new craft. She has got a lot of support in her initiatives not only from USHA but also the local govt representatives.

Village Head Sarla Maurya, said,

Women learn the craft and open up their own Silai centre. They spread the word and more women join in. They teach them and so, the number of women with a skill increases and they become more aware. It is very important for women to be able to earn money for themselves.

Also Read: With Every Cut, Stitch, And Measure, Tulsi Is Building Her Own Empire

Pramod Kumar, Block Mission Director, National Rural Livelihood Mission, Jagatpur, said that the rural women are receiving employment opportunities through a vocation like stitching. Mr. Kumar said that the government gives these trained women the government tenders and assignments for school uniforms, if there are any.

Sometimes some other schemes come in the form of tender then we provide it to the women's collective.

 In most households women are home bound but with this scheme, they are able to move towards getting employment opportunities. There is a sense of confidence in them that they too are able to generate an income.

I have been seeing for the last two years how the lives of women have changed. Ms. Bano does stitching. We gave the government's tender of flags for her Silai school. She was able to make the flags and earned a profit out of it. She completed the target on time. Now we also feel that if another opportunity comes along we can assign her that work, Mr Kumar said.

Another training workshop for women was organised by USHA in collaboration with the Sarvodaya Ashram in the Hardoi district. The Sarvodaya Ashram is a prominent voluntary organisation founded in the 1980s in Hardoi that works in various projects of land development and education and has also given space for USHA's training cum production centre at their sprawling Hardoi campus.

Among the USHA Silai school local resource persons who attended this training are Anti Devi, an adivasi from remote Sonbhadra in eastern UP, and Annapurna Devi, a qualified teacher from Varanasi who says her first love is stitching. Ms. Devi's husband who worked as a driver died in September 2021. She has been stitching since 2011 and supports two children and three other family members. She did not lose hope after her husband's death, and kept doing what she does best - working and training other women as an LRP. Today she earns 15 - 16 thousand rupees monthly and employs 4 -5 people. Ms. Devi said,

My husband used to say you are very talented. He knew he was going to die but he used to tell me that I should stay in the house and not leave this place. In Sonbhadra, there are a lot of Adivasi people, who are not given the chance to step out of their homes. But I teach and explain the process of stitching to the women at my home and shop. I am not bound to my house and I am earning my own livelihood. They ask whether I'll teach them for free or will charge some amount. So, I charge 100 rupees as a form fee and 200 rupees as a monthly fee.

Also Watch: Despite Physical Challenges, USHA Silai School Women Are Carving A Path For Themselves

For Annapurna Devi from Varanasi, the circumstances were a little different. Her husband is an astrologer and she comes from a lower middle-class family. But disagreements with her in-laws meant that she and her husband moved to an independent house a few years ago. This made life difficult for the couple and their three children amid rising prices, and the COVID-19 pandemic was a further blow.

After Ms. Devi 's association with USHA and her LRP training, she has nine machines at home. Last month, she taught 31 women stitching and sewing skills.

Before my training I did not know how to train other people , and what steps should be taken in the course of 6 months. What should be taught to the girls? But during the training period, USHA taught me the process step by step. I also learnt how to repair machines. In many places women do not step out of their homes so we have started offering home tuitions to them. I am fortunate to be associated with USHA and that I was able to do well in life.

Ms. Devi also got an order for 1000 flags during the recent 'Har Ghar Tiranga' programme by the government.

That happiness can't be described in words. We used to work through the night till 2 am. We had to make 1000 flags in a short span of time. I gathered some girls and we worked collectively on machines. We enjoyed hoisting and distributing the flags from door to door. It touched our hearts to see young children running on the streets waving the flag and chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai'.

USHA will be expanding its training programme and the LRPs will be a channel for information flow, data collection and new initiatives between USHA and women entrepreneurs. An LRP would be a Silai school woman from the community itself, well-versed with the local language and community. This will prove to be a very effective mechanism of communication for the development of Silai school women.

Over a period of time, the capacities of the LRPs would be built to enable them to perform many activities, such as: Be a channel between USHA and other Silai school teachers Linking the Silai School to more earning opportunities Conduct awareness sessions and other engaging activities as planned by USHA Share progress of Silai School women Support women in combating family and community issues.

In the coming years, LRPs will be supporting income-generating activities of women entrepreneurs by increasing their own technical competencies, establishing much-needed local knowledge and disseminating new knowledge and skills among them. In the longer run, they will aid in ensuring sustainability of program operations - a much-needed intervention for women in India's rural areas.

Also Watch: USHA Restores Traditional Art And Empowers Women

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Adopt a Silai School

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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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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.

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

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