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USHA-Sarvodaya Ashram Are Teaching Traditional Stitching Techniques To Uttar Pradesh Women

USHA-Sarvodaya Ashram Are Teaching Traditional Stitching Techniques To Uttar Pradesh Women

A first ever visit to Uttar Pradesh's capital Lucknow for 21-year-old Reema Devi, a trainee with USHA's Training cum Production Centre in Hardoi , set up for imparting sewing skills, production of items and to promote regional craft. Lucknow's bustling 'chowk' market is known for its 'Chikankari' shops that sell garments with the famous and popular embroidery work that originated in Lucknow but is known all over India. Reema is very young but much of her life has been overtaken by a tragedy from a marginalized OBC community and the youngest of six siblings, Reema was married off by her parents - labourers who struggled to make ends meet.

Just 19 Months after her wedding her husband died in a train accident and her in-laws blamed Reema for this tragedy. They took all her belongings and sent her back to her father's home. They also registered a court case against 6 members of her family which affected Reema's self-esteem terribly. That's where the Sarvodaya Ashram stepped in.

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

This decades old NGO, is involved in education and the upliftment of women, and the USHA Training cum Production Centre in Hardoi operates from its campus. Reema was selected as a participant at the Training Cum Production Centre and underwent the training for 15 days. Apart from stitching, Reema has been actively involved in Chikankari embroidery work as well. Even though this is all new for her, and she is still in the process of mastering the skill, Reema is able to earn Rs. 1,000/ month from just Chikankari work alone. It's a big amount for someone like Reema who is still traumatised by the events of the last two years.

USHA Silai school trainee, Ms Devi said,

Now that I can do it (Chikankari embroidery), I find it easy. Earlier I used to feel it was very difficult. It is fine work. Because of the training here my work has become more refined. Now I can finish products better. I learnt how to sew twice, once when I was not married. I asked my father to get me a machine but he said there was no money but he promised to get me one when there was money. But he is a labourer . I like it here. At home, work can be done only when there is time. Here I am free - no one can order me around.

Like Ms Devi , USHA's Training cum Production Centre at Hardoi has given many other women in the area a shot at turning their lives around by learning a new skill set. At this Training cum Production Centre (TCPC), the women not only learn how to stitch and service sewing machines, they are also taught chikankari - intricate work involving 36 types of stitching on textile. The embroidery is mostly done on fine white cotton fabric with untwisted white cotton or silk thread. The motifs are inspired from nature, including flowers, creepers and lace-like patterns.

Also Read: USHA-MURA Collective Are Teaching Uttarakhand Women To Upcycle Discarded Clothes

Program Coordinator for USHA International, Uttar Pradesh, Vijay Pandey said,

We have been working in rural areas for 10 - 12 years and as the programme is expanding it is evolving too . When we were working in the area we realised that women who know the chikankari craft may not know stitching, when we started teaching stitching, we realised that if we are teaching women embroidery and also stitching they are managing to earn a good amount of money . So we and the ashram administrators realised we should open a training cum production centre here so women can come here and get trained. We had first discussed this 5-6 years ago and now we have managed to implement it on the ground. We have shared our expertise with the women and we are seeing a lot of success in the initiative.

Already, a success story for the initiative, 29 year old Gulab Jahan, famous in her village for her stitching and embroidery skills was brought in as a trainer for the Hardoi Training Cum Production Centre. It was a big opportunity for Ms Jahan to move on from what had happened in her life. Gulab was married for 3 years but soon found out that her husband already had a first marriage . It was after she was subjected to domestic abuse that her father brought her back home. The incident only made Ms Jahan stronger and even more determined to learn and carve a niche for herself. But the journey wasn't easy.

Narrating her ordeal, USHA Silai school trainee, Ms Jahan said,

Where I live, there was no stitching school. I used to hide and watch a few tailors and come back home and try my hand at stitching. Then I learnt some work. Then I went to Hardoi and learnt more there . Then I started cutting and stitching full suit pieces and made many mistakes initially. But I kept on improving. Then I learnt via the USHA Silai School. I learnt embroidery through you tube. I know the basic things, and I will continue to learn till I breathe. From USHA, I got trained in making pockets. I always wanted to earn a name for myself rather than just money. God will give money , but it is the name that travels far.

Today Ms Jahan is able to earn between Rs 7,000-8,000 a month. She takes orders for Chikankari embroidery, trains women in the art for a certain fee, and also does repair work on sewing machines. Ms Jahan thanked USHA for helping her earn a livelihood and teaching her new skills.

I cannot thank them enough. I could never speak to anyone, look at how I am speaking to you now- this is a big contribution. They have exposed people like us to many things, they have taught us many things. We can share anything with them, they are willing to impart any kind of skill that we need.

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

In Hardoi, USHA's collaboration with the Sarvodaya Ashram has been essential. A prominent voluntary organisation founded in the 1980's in Hardoi by Urmila Shrivastava and her husband... The ashram works on various projects related to land development and education. The organisation has also provided space for USHA's training cum production centre at their sprawling Hardoi campus.

Sarvodaya Ashram President, Urmila Srivastava said that the team collaborated with USHA because of the same interests and goals - provide employment to women.

The Sarvodaya Ashram also works towards the same goal. Another agenda for both of us is that when women will step out of the house , when the get money in their hands, the confidence and self-belief they get they will do a lot of work on their own. If you speak to any of the women here you will realise how many constraints they are living under . How there are so many issues with the families. They are emerging out of that darkness and moving towards the light, we are trying to show them the light . We are full of hope , we may be slow paced right now but we see infinite possibilities.

 USHA and the Sarvodaya Ashram's initiative is spreading hope and bringing cheer to many lives in the area. 28 yr old Tabassum belongs to a marginalized OBC Muslim family She got married in 2016, but due to some issues she returned home and is now staying with her family. She also has a 5 year old daughter and her earnings from the stitching and embroidery work help take care of her child and other expenses. She is able to stitch 2-3 garments per day which generates an income of Rs. 200-300. Apart from stitching, she has been actively involved in Chikankari embroidery work as well.

USHA Silai school trainee, Tabassum said,

My Nani (grandmother) taught me stitching in 5 days . USHA taught me a lot more . For instance there were finishing issues with my work. In chikankari, I understood many designs after coming here. I can now do all kinds of chikankari work. I knew some stuff earlier, and USHA taught me a lot.

Lucknow and its nearby districts are the only places where the 400-year-old art of Chikankari embroidery is preserved. Initiatives like USHA and Sarvodaya Ashram's Training cum Production Centre are not only helping keep the craft alive but are also changing countless lives in India's remote villages.

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

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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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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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