Over the last decade, empowering women in poor communities has become a focal point in India. That is because about 50.7 million people live in extreme poverty in India, yet, as of 2019, only 20.7% of women in India are part of the labor force. Moreover, the country has recently seen a drop in its GDP from 6.1% to 5% and is attempting to recover from its uncertain economy. As a result, one solution that many nonprofit organizations and the government have recognized is investing in the population that is living under the poverty line. Specifically, many groups are empowering women in India through sewing.
Today, being able to sew can be an acclaimed vocational skill. Over the past decade or so, embroidery has become an empowering tool for women in India, and a traditional craft. With this understanding, nonprofits have implemented many initiatives in India to empower women and help their families out of poverty.
Sewing the Seeds & Samugam Trust
Sewing the Seeds is a nonprofit organization that partnered with the NGO Samugam Trust to begin a women’s sewing initiative. The plan supports women in impoverished communities by creating economic stability using creativity and the traditional craft of stitching. Bruno Savio and Gayle created Sewing the Seeds to use sewing to empower women in India living in poverty.
Savio’s father opened the Samugam Trust in 1991 to support the educational training of the underprivileged, the rehabilitation of leprosy patients and those who are physically challenged. Bruno Savio has continued his father’s legacy as director of Samugam and partner of Sewing the Seeds. Gayle backpacked across India about 40 years ago. During her journey, she saw an opportunity to empower women in the country through vocational training.
Savio and Gayle recognized that more than 50% of women in India are illiterate, and only 29% of women in India are actively employed. Additionally, those who are employed are paid 46% less than men holding the same positions. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust realize that investing in women is smart economics and essential to reducing poverty. With this in mind, the initiative provides the training, financial assistance, materials and communal space to empower women while preserving local craft traditions.
Samugam Trust has supported the initiative since 2011, with the first collection of products introduced online in 2018. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust have supplied training and machines for 130 women. The importance of this initiative is to empower women in India in a way that is holistic and long term in its support.
Shakti.ism also supported empowering women in India through sewing by launching a sustainable livelihood project. The starting goal is to reach out to 10 tribal and disabled Indian women to provide vocational training. To successfully supply these resources Shakti.ism is partnering with Samugam Trust and Sewing the Seeds to empower impoverished women. Recently, they chose 10 women from diverse backgrounds including disabled mothers.
Shakti.ism continuously raises money to cover instruction fees, supplies, daily stipends for trainees and administrative costs such as quality control. Most products are crafted from repurposed saris (a traditional Indian woman’s dress) and are to be sold online. Shakti.ism is empowering women in India as a way to support families living in underprivileged rural areas of India, as well as decrease the wage disparity while increasing the trainees’ self-confidence and skills.
Usha Silai School
Included in the community-based initiative is Usha Silai (sewing) School. This initiative has reportedly set up over 15,000 sewing schools across India with the support of the Digital Empowerment Foundation NGO and Sikana. To further their reach and enhance their programs, Usha and Sikana co-created a video program to train illiterate women. The enhanced program has increased the initiative’s outreach while providing skills to gain a livelihood to women in rural India.
The Digital Empowerment Foundation supplies technological information for rural citizens to use to their advantage. For example, they supply internet-dependent tools that can provide access to training and create socioeconomic equality. Specifically, they provide internet and digital tools in rural community centers that partner with Usha Silai School.
Community-based initiatives that provide sewing empowerment for women in poverty have been essential for the growth of rural India. Sewing has become a highly desired vocational skill and is a powerful tool for those living in poverty. Recognizing the long term impact of vocational training, NGOs provide this solution-based approach across India to bring self-confidence and skills to women.
– Sumeet Waraich