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USHA's First Residential Training Programme In Kargil Gave Birth To 25 Silai Schools In Ladakh

Kargil is much more than just a theatre of war. Amidst the apricots and apples, walnuts and freshly brewed kahwa, a group of women is preparing to start their day with their best smiles. The women have just been through the USHA Silai school's first residential training program in Kargil. The nine-day-long Swavalambhan Residential Capacity-Building Program covered all aspects of machine repairing, stitching, and life skills. Talking to NDTV about the programme, Santosh Sukhdev, District Magistrate, Kargil said,

As you know, there was a time when Kargil and Ladakh were quite cut-off because of the weather. For six months in a year, the weather made these areas inaccessible. Because of the lack of exposure, people did not have an understanding of the world outside of Kargil. The women here weren't involved in decision-making because of their traditional and conservative culture. Given how this training program has been organised, each woman will open her Silai School and train 20 women in a year. So, if these 25 women train 20 women each, 500 women will have been trained in a year. If these women further train other women, then these skills will reach 10,000 women by next year. I truly believe it is very important for women to be economically independent. It empowers them by enhancing their confidence and decision-making ability.

Tribal women, with their inherent talent, have abundant creativity - all of which is overlooked and buried due to a lack of opportunities. Given the remote nature of the location and the relative lack of exposure, the women were hesitant in expressing themselves and presenting their work. USHA and SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India) took it upon themselves to bring these women out of their villages and upskill them, in addition to teaching them soft skills.

Aqila Akhtar, a Trainee at USHA Silai School said,

I would do a little stitching earlier but not as much as I have learnt here. Ma'am taught us how to make shirts, kurtas, skirts, and a lot more. I found the soft skills training to be the most interesting. That really gave our confidence a boost. The soft skills classes have given us enough confidence to empower us and make us self-sufficient.

Shayista Ayoub, State Manager, Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh, USHA Social Services said that they have been working in Jammu Kashmir since 2018 and then moved to Ladakh where 24 Silai Schools were opened. She added,

Now our target was Kargil. This time, with the support of SIDBI and the Government Degree College Kargil, we planned and opened 25 schools. We want to provide women with opportunities to engage themselves in other sources of living and other skills so that they become independent.

Sameena Rasool, Master Trainer at USHA Silai School spoke about the importance of the project and said,

It is vital to empower tribal women because traditionally they have had limited access to the outside world. They spend their lives in villages, farming, with little knowledge of the outside world. They do not have televisions at home to keep them informed. When they came here and interacted among themselves, they enjoyed opening up in each other's company. When they would return to their hostel after the day's training, they would spend their time chatting and playing. 

Working with the tribal population comes with a fair set of challenges. How is USHA mitigating them? Mary Rupa Tete, Vice-President, of USHA Social Services said,

Tribal women have always been our focus. When these women stay in areas that are very difficult to reach, and have language and cultural barriers, we have made special efforts to reach out to them and have helped them open their own USHA Silai schools. We also ensure that these schools are sustained with the help of our implementing NGO partners who are present even in these remote, difficult-to-reach locations.

80 kilometres from Kargil lies the village of Parkachik. It is one of the many villages from where trainees arrived in Kargil to start their journey of entrepreneurship. Mansura is the first woman in her family to have left home and travelled outside for nine whole days. In a break from stereotypes and tradition, her in-laws and husband supported her decision to join the USHA Swavalambhan Silai School Program. Ever the introvert, Mansura was initially hesitant in speaking to her peers and clearing doubts about stitching. But her teachers and friends ensured that eventually, it became a very enjoyable experience for her.

Mansura, a Trainee at USHA Silai school shared her daily routine and aspirations and said,

There are seven people in my family. I spend my time farming, I take the cattle for grazing. I cook for the family early in the morning, then I take the cattle out. I return home around 7 and finish off daily chores like cleaning the house. Then, if there is any time left, I do some stitching. I want to open a really big Silai school in my village so that the girls living here can benefit from it.

As Mansura returned to the village, her friends rushed to help her with setting up the machine. In the tradition of the Purig tribe that Mansura is from, the head of the family offered prayers to God, and inaugurated the special occasion. Mansura is a woman of ambition now, determined to pass on her skills to the stitching enthusiasts of Parkachik.

The societal values of Ladakh have leaned more towards a conservative culture with minimal female participation in day-to-day decision making activities. With changing times, increased exposure, education, and training programs such as USHA's, women are actively participating in a cultural exchange of ideas. This only strengthens their entrepreneurial skills.

Mansura's role is no longer limited to taking cattle for grazing. She is no longer only the woman in the background who prepares Nun Chai for her family in the morning and sweeps the house once they have all left. Mansura has blossomed into a full-scale entrepreneur in her nine days of training. She is a woman on a mission – to leave her stamp in her community, teaching young girls to be self-sufficient like her.

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Adopt a Silai School

Adopt a Silai School

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.

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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