Twelve years ago, at the request of several women in the village who were struggling to make ends meet, Nishtha started a tailoring class in our Community Centre employing Maya Devi as teacher. This helped many women to learn how to make bags which Nishtha was able to sell both for fund raising and publicity purposes. By 2012 the group were making and selling so many bags that it was agreed that they should set up their own registered co-operative as an independent group with their own bank account and financial management. For women from the lowest income level this is a welcome opportunity to enable their families to survive. Nishtha remains involved in that we place orders, give designs, suggest materials and colours and keep a good eye on the quality. We pay for all the bags we use or give to guests at their agreed rates, ensuring that the women receive a fair payment for the time and effort they put into making each bag.
The women meet regularly in Nishtha Community Centre with Maya Devi who still does most of the cutting and organising, to plan and receive their allocation of bags to be stitched. On Monday when I met them six out of the total of ten in the group were present. They happily talked about their families and the daily struggle they have to survive and educate their children at this time. Increasingly people need money as their small holdings require a great deal of work for not much produce and their earnings are so low it is hardly believable that they are able to feed and clothe their families let alone meet school costs and medical expenses.
Women of the Stitching Group
Maya for example is married with a husband who earns only the minimum wage. Their household includes her son who is also a labourer and his wife and little baby. Without her income things would be very tough. She however is happy and pleased that she can earn money out of making beautiful bags which people love. She is proud of her skills and ability to teach others and run this group.
Neelam has been a member of this group for 7 years now. Her husband works as a labourer which is a hard life with little reward. She is blessed with two sons who are still at school. The family has some land but she really enjoys stitching so is happy to be able to make a little money from work which she loves and which she can do in her own time. Her earnings from her hard work all go to educating her sons.
Similarly Monu has a labourer husband and two children, a boy and a girl who both need good food and money to buy uniforms and books. Family expenses are never ending!
Vandhana is not living with her husband but with her two young sons in her mother’s home. Stitching with this group is not her only source of income as she also works as a house maid since she is the sole earner to maintain the household of 4 people. It is however a great help to be able to earn extra in her evenings.
Kamla and Sunita both have husbands who have secure jobs but even so their income barely meets the needs of their households. They enjoy the work so they are very happy to be able to earn in this way, and it helps them cover school and medical expenses or buy clothing for the family.