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USHA Silai School Along With Governments Of Meghalaya And West Bengal Takes Up Skill Development For Uplifting Thousands Of Women

USHA Silai School Along With Governments Of Meghalaya And West Bengal Takes Up Skill Development For Uplifting Thousands Of Women
New Delhi: 

41-year-old Rejlin Warjri hailing from Umran Dairy village of Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya had to give up education after completing primary school because of the financial battles her family of 10 people was going through after her father's death. She was compelled to work at a tea stall at a very young age to earn a livelihood and contribute to putting bread on the table for her family. As she worked hard for survival, she managed to save some money which helped her learn basics of sewing, get a sewing machine on rent and start small scale cloth alteration and repair business which helped her earn about Rs. 3,000-4,000 a month. Rejlin, now a mother of five daughters and two sons and wife to a daily wage labour, got a chance to be trained under USHA's Silai School programme in 2019 after which she opened her own school and is looking forward to helping other women who are struggling financially to build better lives for themselves and their families. Rejlin, who is earning almost Rs. 10,000 per month said, 

My father expired when I was very little. I was the fifth child of my parent but I had leave studies to join my elder siblings in earning a living. When Meghalaya State Rural Livelihoods Society (MSRLS) in partnership with USHA was looking for women for skill development on cloth bag making, I took the training. After the training, I bought a second-hand machine and started making and selling cloth bags. My income doubled in no time. My husband and four older children are working as daily wage labour. With help of the collective family income, I am able to manage the household expenses and invest my rest of the earnings in buying machines and tools for my Silai School.

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

Just like Rejlin, thousands of women living in rural areas of Meghalaya are getting uplifted, thanks to USHA Silai School initiative and its partnership with MSRLS which has been formed by the Government of Meghalaya as per the guidelines of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). The partnership was started with an objective of providing the poor with a platform and linking them with financial institutions and government departments.

In 2019, the Meghalaya government decided to promote cloth bag across the state in order to prevent the use of plastic bags as it damages the environment. The state government started a production centre along with USHA to train women to sew cloth bags. According to Shanlang Lyngdoh, Chief Operating Officer, MSRLS, 

The USHA Silai School program runs Usha Silai school training cum production centre at Umsning in Ri-bhoi district of Meghalaya, 30 Km, away from state capital Shillong where rural women are not only trained in stitching and sewing but the centre also acts as the production centre. The government of Meghalaya has entrusted MSRLS to collaborate with USHA International Limited for the Silai school program. The idea is to create a sustainable livelihood for women. So, we gathered some women who were doing some stitching work in their houses. We started training and grooming them in more advanced ways of stitching.

While talking about the decision of focusing on cloth bag production, R.M Kurbah, Deputy Commissioner, Ri Bhoi district said that plastic bags form a large proportion of single-use plastic items used in people's day-to-day life and so it is important to provide alternatives to cut down the plastic waste. He said, 

We all know about the menace that a single-use plastic has caused to the environment and especially in this beautiful state of Meghalaya where we have the rivers and the highways. We have the market places, which are usually very clean but then because of these single-use plastics it has really created a mess out of the whole thing especially in today's environment.

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

As a pilot project, the state government has set-up two Production Centers in Umsing and Ri Bhoi districts to train women entrepreneurs in bag making. Mr. Lyngdoh asserted, 

The initiative has double benefits. On the one hand, it is helping the women to earn a better livelihood and on the other, it is helping the environment. We have seen women getting trained at the Silai School. They are very enthusiastic and learning the skills because at USHA Silai they not only teach them skillsbut also engage them with the designer.

According to Designer Syiem, the women at training centres set-up by the state government are getting better at the art of stitching. He said, 

When I was approached by USHA to meet these women, I was happy because I had done similar training with weavers in the past. The path that I come in as a designer is to help these women upgrade the skills in terms of you know like finishing on the garments, coming out with different techniques of stitching, we have spoken also about training them in KamSu embroidery and I feel like by doing that not only better the skills but also help them find a bigger market for their products.

As part of the training, women were not only taught to stitch simple carry bags of different sizes and weight capacity, but also stylish and fashionable bags. In Meghalaya, this year, USHA SIlai School trained 28 women from eight villages. Most of the trained women are working at production centres while some others have been able to open their own Silai schools to help other women in their communities. 

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

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, the focus at the production centres expanded to stitching face masks. Mr. Kurbah said, 

Women were given special training on stitching effective face masks that meet the guidelines of the central government. This really helped the community because the pandemic was a sudden event and people were facing a shortage of masks. More than 4-5 lakh masks were stitched and distributed to the people under this initiative.

As a measure to enhance the income of the women of the production centre, USHA collaborated with The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) which works for marketing the products that rural artisans especially tribals produce all over the country. 

After giving a new meaning to the life of rural women of Meghalaya and providing an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags, USHA reached West Bengal. About two years ago, USHA conducted a programme in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and West Bengal Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribe and Other Backward Castes Finance and Development Corporation for training 3,500 women from marginalised communities which led to the opening of 3,500 Silai Schools. 

Seeing the impact on the field and after due validation by the state government, Usha International Limited and WB SC/ST/OBC Finance and Development Corporation has set-up additional 29 Silai Schools across the villages near Bongaon which is around 130 kilometres away from Kolkata.  

Also Read: The Women From USHA Silai School Kashmir Make It To The Lakme Fashion Week 2019

Jyotsna Sardar, a beneficiary of the USHA Silai School initiative, lives in Uttar Jiala village of Bagdah block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal with her two daughters of 3 and 14 years, her husband Jagdish and in-laws. Jagadish works at Sealdah railway yard as a cleaner of goods rake under a private contractor and manages to earn around Rs. 6000 every month. Jyotsna who was a farm labourer earlier did not have knowledge of stitching. After being identified by the West Bengal SC ST OBC Finance and Development Corporation, she was selected for training at USHA Silai School for one month. She was dedicated to the programme and travelled over 10 kilometres daily with 29 other women from various villages to learn to stitch. Jyotsna, who started her own Silai School in March this year said, 

I had never imagined that an opportunity like this would be given to me. When I got myself registered under the USHA Silai School programme, it changed my life. During the training, we were taught to stitch petticoat, night suit, and pillow covers. This training was followed by distribution of sewing machines and two days exclusive mechanical training by USHA which was focussed at troubleshooting of any issues found in sewing machines. My main target initially was to earn some money as I and my family were facing an economic crisis. My husband also lost his job because of the lockdown. But now, I feel motivated to help other women as well who are going the same challenges in life as I did.

Jyotsna currently has eight learners at her school from whom she charges Rs. 50 per month. She has also managed to get stitching orders from nearby villages. From the last two months, she has been earning Rs. 2,500 on an average whereas she believes that she could earn at least Rs. 4,000 per month after the pandemic is over fully. She has a dream to fulfil every need of her daughters and provide them with higher education with whatever money she earns from her school. 

Also Read: With 3,500 New Silai Schools In The State, USHA And West Bengal Government Uplift Thousands Of Women

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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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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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