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

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

The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed is an unprecedented shock to the global economy. During this unprecedented crisis, because of economic slowdown, the worst-hit are the small and medium industries in the country of which women own 20 per cent of micro-enterprises, 5 per cent small industries and less than 3 per cent of medium industries, as per government data. However, as factories shut down and streets fell silent, in many parts of India sewing machines continued to run. The hands remained busy putting thread through the needle and feet pounding the pedal of the swing machine, courtesy the USHA Silai School that helped women make ends meet even during the pandemic.  

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

Sunita Devi's Silai School in Bagru, a small town close to Jaipur, took up the job of stitching masks during the lockdown. Wearing a face mask is recommended by doctors and medical experts as an important measure for preventing the spread of coronavirus which can get transmitted through the aerosols produced while sneezing, coughing, breathing and speaking. 

The work at Sunita's Silai school, which has produced over 37,000 masks, never came to a standstill. Not only did it provide an item of essential need during this health crisis, it also ensured an income for the rural women in her town Bagru.   

Marriages and social gatherings were banned because of the lockdown. Markets and local businesses were also shut. We had no work for 15 days. We were in a very bad situation. But with the help of my SIlai School, I have stitched masks worth Rs. 1.3 lakh. My students also had no work, so I gave work to them too. Men have no work these days, so we are managing all the expenses, said Sunita Devi Kumawat, 37-year-old Silai Hero, USHA Silai School.  

Masks stitched by Sunita Devi and her students were distributed by a local bank as part of their community service and are also being sold commercially, sustaining not only her own family but also those women who are a part of her Silai school. Kaushalya, Sunita's Student said,  

My husband is a barber but because of lockdown he had no work. This mask making has really helped me and my family survive. I have worked during the lockdown and earned about Rs. 4,000-5,000. I was able to use this money in managing the bad times.  

Mary Rupa, Vice President, USHA Social Services said that women continued to work by making masks for the community. She added that as the lockdown is easing, learners are coming back to Silai school to resume their training.  

Also Read: USHA Silai School Reaches The Remotest Islands And Villages To Empower and Upskill Women

Ms. Rupa asserted that USHA was constantly in touch with the women to guide them on how to stitch masks the right way and with minimum fabric wastage. It was crucial to ensure that masks are made as per what has been recommended by the doctors and medical experts to prevent the transmission of coronavirus. This is where USHA's technical team stepped in, to guide them the way.  

When we get the fabric from the market, we keep it out in the Sun for at least 3-4 hours. After this, we soak it in hot salt water and let it dry. We then iron the cloth and cut and stitch it to make masks. After the masks are made, we wash those with salt water one more time and iron and sanitise those before packing for distribution and sale.  

As the country battles through these troubling times, stories of entrepreneurs like Sunita give us hope. She and her husband Nathu Lal Kumavat had shifted to Bagru a few year ago, penniless in search of jobs. Since Sunita had the basic knowledge of sewing, she started taking orders from locals, but considering the low volume of work, her income was paltry. In 2016, as the husband-wife duo continued their hand to mouth existence, Sunita came across USHA Silai School Programme. After undergoing the initial training for seven days, she received a sewing machine. The sewing machine became the means to a better future for Sunita. Soon, she started earning Rs. 9,000 every month by taking stitching orders and training other women. Sunita also worked on producing a clothing line that was launched at the Lakme Fashion Week, 2018. After this, her monthly income increased to Rs. 25,000. It was her determination that has led to her success. She is an example of how courage and hope can see people through the worst of times.   
 
Not only is USHA Silai School transforming the lives of disadvantaged women by providing them a source of livelihood, but also providing a skill set to the members of the Blind Relief Association in Delhi. The association was established in 1944. In 2016, when Radhika Bharat Ram, Joint Secretary of Blind Relief Association, got to know about USHA's Silai School initiative while looking for a vocational program, she approached USHA for a partnership. 

Also Read: With 3,500 New Silai Schools In The State, USHA And West Bengal Government Uplift Thousands Of Women
 
During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, USHA Silai School partnered with Blind Relief Association to help the visually challenged students learn a new skill during these unprecedented times. The students were trained in making masks. Setting aside their own set of challenges, these students worked towards providing masks to the society and are contributing towards combating the health crisis. 

I have been training here since July 2019. We were given a leave because of the coronavirus. When I decided to go back home, I did not get train tickets. I informed my teachers and they helped me stay back here. I am safe here. I do not meet anyone or go outside the campus and so it is unlikely for me to contract the virus. I could have gotten the virus during my travel back home. I could have then spread it to my family and village, said Ahmed, a student of Blind Relief Association. 

Radhika Bharat Ram, Joint Secretary, Blind Relief Association told NDTV that when the lockdown happened, nobody really knew what was going to happen and what course the pandemic would take. She said, 

Two weeks into the lockdown, we decided that we can't just sit and do nothing and that's when the team gave us the idea about what we can do. We have the stitching unit and we thought about how we can use this space. USHA Silai School had this manual that they came out with that explained how to stitch a mask and what precautions were required to be taken. The team just got together and we came up with a prototype. Two of the students who could not go back home were at the Blind Relief Association, itching to do something because boredom was setting in, so then we started making these masks. It was a new thing for us and I think the association wanted to contribute to the fight against the pandemic in a meaningful way.

She added that the association has produced over 3,000 masks. The association is selling the masks as well as distributing those to the vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. 
 

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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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