USHA Silai School Goes Beyond The Mainstream To Empower And Uplift Individuals
Updated: June 17, 2019 17:36 IST
The aim of USHA Silai School has always been to empower both men and women and provide them a better source of livelihood. Keeping up with their motive, in Meghalaya, USHA Silai School trained women to make cloth bags, an alternative to single-use plastic bags, which have been banned by the state government. Along with this, USHA partnered with the Blind Relief Association in Delhi to provide sewing training to visually impaired students.
In 2016, the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board banned the use of plastic bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns to protect the north-eastern state and its dense forest from plastic pollution. With a ban on plastic bags - an everyday essential, rose the need for an alternative to it.
One of the alternatives is compostable bags, but the state government does not allow the use of compostable bags without prior license and permission. Also, procuring a license is a tedious process for shopkeepers and manufacturers. To bridge the gap, the state government conceptualised a project that could provide an alternative to plastic bags and simultaneously a source of income to disadvantaged women.
The project gave birth to a venture between the Meghalaya State Rural Livelihoods Society (MSRLS) and USHA. The collaboration further led to the establishment of two production centres in the West Garo Hills and the Khasi Hills.
As part of the project, 50 women from existing Self Help Groups (SHGs) across the state were selected and trained in stitching and sewing by USHA. Today, apart from regular sewing, women of the state are capable of stitching a variety of cloth and jute bags, an alternative to single-use plastic bags.
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.
In 2016, when Radhika Bharat Ram, Joint Secretary, Blind Relief Association, Delhi, got to know about USHA's Silai School initiative while looking for a vocational program, she approached USHA for a partnership.
'Before this, we had never worked with visually impaired individuals so as an organisation it was an opportunity of learning and that is why the management decided to take this challenge. For the same, we introduced compact and advanced machines with additional features like auto threading and made some alterations in our training', explains Alok Shukla, USHA Representative.
In the last two and a half years, USHA has trained 70 visually impaired individuals and currently, around eight are undergoing training. Today, the learners are capable of stitching varied bags, pouches, sarees, among other items.
'I took the training from this center. I completed my course here and now I am working in a factory. I earn around Rs 10,000 in a month. All this is possible because of this school', says Savita, one of the learners.
The partnership and training helped five of the trainees take sewing as their full-fledged career.