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Stitching A Green Future: USHA Silai School Helps Women Have A Sustainable Livelihood And Environment

Stitching A Green Future: USHA Silai School Helps Women Have A Sustainable Livelihood And Environment
New Delhi: 

Spinning, weaving and knitting are traditional activities for women of Leh and Ladakh. While for some it is a source of income for many it is only a way to utilise the spare time. In an attempt to harness the skill set of women and generate employment for them, USHA has collaborated with Looms of Ladakh which was founded in 2017 by 29-year-old Abhilasha Bahuguna and her husband, Prasanna Ramaswamy G as a cooperative that works towards training unemployed women artisans from Ladakh to make finished knitted and woven woollen products from the region's rich heritage of wool in all its renditions: pashmina, yak, sheep and camel. USHA and Looms of Ladakh have provided 10 days training in stitching to 250 women of the region with help from the aid provided by the government for the programme.

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

Zara Bano, a resident of Chuchot Bangapa Leh, is one of the women artisans who produce some of the finest Pashmina in the world but did not have access to right market to sell her handmade products. Mother of three and wife to a daily wage worker, Zara spends most of the time on household work but she dedicates some time every day on weaving to earn some amount in order to contribute to the family income. After she got to know about USHA Silai School programme from Looms of Ladakh, Zara enrolled herself for a 10 days training and has now opened her own Silai School and is looking forward to selling finished garments made by her like Jackets and Kurtis. She said,

Earlier, I used to knit sweaters. I also know spinning and weaving but life was not easy for me because I am not educated. USHA Silai School has supported me with sewing skills and I am sure this will help me increase my income even more.

From the pashmina weaving, Zara earns an average amount of Rs. 4,000 per month and by knitting she earns about Rs.1,000 per month depending on the work order.

According to Rigzin Yangdol, CEO, Looms of Ladakh, the sale of handmade products depends on the tourists. She said,

Locals do not buy our products because of the issue of affordability. Sometimes we are able to sell one to two shawls to locals but not more than that. It's expensive because raw material for Pashmina is very costly. Tourists buy our products and we're able to do a good sale. That is because it is local, is of good quality and the colour is natural. All the products are original. We don't mix anything in them. We use the raw material as it is, don't even dye the fabric. We sell the products as it is. The tourists like it. Ealier we would make the fabric on our own but we would have to take it to the tailor. We would face troubles since the tailors never delivered on time and we would lose a customer. To make it more sustainable, Looms of Ladakh collaborated with USHA Silai School to make finished products out of the raw material.

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

Phunchuk Dolma is another beneficiary of USHA's training programme. A resident of Stok Village of Leh, she spends most of her time taking care of her family while her husband served in the Indian Army. She also did some weaving to earn some livelihood. While talking to NDTV she said,

I work with Looms of Ladakh. I finish my work and go to the centre. Earlier, when my kids were young, I would look after the fields and take care of the house. Now my children have grown up. Sewing helps me pass time and earn some money. Earlier I didn't know many techniques including how to repair sewing machines but now I have become more self-reliant. It feels good.

Ms Dolma used to earn Rs. 7,000 per month on an average by weaving of wool and pashmina. But after getting trained in stitching at USHA Silai School, Phunchuk is expecting to earn more as she is now able to produce finished products herself and does not require another tailor to do that job for her. Even after being a senior citizen, Ms Dolma's enthusiasm towards sewing has given her a chance to become a trainer at USHA Silai school at this age.

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

Appreciating the work done by USHA Silai School, Rigzin Samphel, Commissioner Secretary, Union Territory of Ladakh said,

The whole idea was to explore new avenues of livelihood based on the core competency. The core competency out here was obviously when they started with Pashmina and other products here and I am sure whatever additional help is being given to them in terms of sewing and stitching will add to whatever they have already built on. I would give all the credit to the women who are the building blocks or soul and the spirit of Looms of Ladakh. For the success that Looms of Ladakh has been able to achieve.

With an aim to take its work of providing sustainable livelihood to women to a larger scale, USHA has collaborated with UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) to prepare 100 master trainers who will in turn train 3,000 women across India in life skills over the next three years to help them become successful entrepreneurs.

But USHA Silai School does not stop just there. Along with providing a sustainable livelihood, it has also been working on contributing its bit towards conserving the environment. About 90 kilometres from Mumbai, close to Tansa wildlife sanctuary, USHA Silai School along with The Corbett Foundation,  non-governmental organisation dedicated to the cause of conservation of wildlife, has been training women in order to reduce their community's dependence on forest. The Tansa forest landscape is fragmented with small villages dominated by the tribal population which depend on forest produce and one paddy crop a year and search for livelihood in nearby cities for the rest of the month. Most of the people in these villages depend on forests for their fuelwood requirements. According to Rajesh Suresh Sakat, Project Head at the Corbett Foundation, because of the increasing population of forest-dependent humans, deforestation is increasing. This has not only increased pressure on the forest but has also increased human-wildlife conflicts, he said. Mr Sakat added,

We want communities to go less into the forest and for this, we have joined hands with USHA Silai School to help them provide with an alternate source of livelihood.

Bharti Kaislash Jadhav, a 30-year-old woman from Thane is a beneficiary of this initiative. She, her two children of age 12 and 5 years and her husband who works as an agricultural labourer, were facing financial struggles and putting food on the table every day became a challenge for them. But a sewing machine has made a difference to her life. While talking to NDTV she said,

There is a lot of poverty in my village. People work hard the whole day and earn only meagerly. We could not even take care of our kids as we were out the whole day. But with help of USHA Silai School, I am able to earn from home itself. I am able to stitch a lot of things and I also know machine repair work now. I am able to earn about Rs. 4,000 per month out of which I save Rs. 1,000 and put it in bank. This has helped me and my husband a lot and we are now able to get some important renovations done for our house.

The Corbett Foundation believes that conservation efforts can only be successful if the communities around the forest take care of it. By providing a livelihood and an alternate source of income to the people living around the forest in Thane, USHA Silai School has been helping save the forests and wildlife in the area.

Also Read: USHA Silai School Helps Rape Survivors Fight The Stigma And Build A Better Future

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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
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