A stitch in time

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They say that one must make most of the opportunities that one gets, but very few people manage to do so. One such person is 38-year-old Sudha Kanthi from Bijapur, Karnataka; her commitment and diligence to make the most of the helping hand offered to her has helped her to achieve her dream. On International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we celebrate women like Sudha who have not only changed their own lives, but also contributed towards changing that of others in her community.

After learning tailoring from her elder sister, Sudha took up some small hand stitching works, as buying a sewing machine was beyond her financial reach. Her husband Dashrath Kanthi (55) worked in a stone cutting factory near to their community. But Their humble earnings were not enough to meet the need of the family of four, which includes their children Priyanka (18) and Prajwal (15).

Today, things have changed drastically for Sudha and her family. Not only is she a proud owner of a sewing machine, but also teaches tailoring to a bunch of girls. Her life changed after she became a member of the Self-Help Group (SHG) in her community. One day, during the SHG meeting, Sudha raised her concern of having no money to buy a sewing machine. When this was brought to the notice of Vittal Dange, Community Development Facilitator (CDF) with the NGO, World Vision India, he made the necessary arrangements to get her a sewing machine.

Sudha’s stitching skills have become the talk of the community in a few months. While she mainly stitches ladies clothing such as salwars, saree blouses, skirts, and kurtis, she also takes orders for school uniforms. With bulk orders now pouring in, she made the wise decision of hiring an assistant to help her complete the task. “A few days after I began training one of the girls in the community to help me with the stitching, at least five or six others came asking if I could teach them, as well. While I could not accommodate all of them in my house, we have cleared a space in our yard to set-up sewing classes,” she says. Once the morning batch is done for the day, Sudha takes a half an hour break for lunch. By the time she finishes, the next one is ready to begin training. A total of 20 women are currently training under her. After the classes get over by 6 pm, Sudha goes on to work on the pending orders. “I hardly get any time during the day, which is why at times I have to stay awake late into the night, to finish the orders,” she explains. “Even though we wanted to do something on our own, acquiring the skills for it was always a challenge. I could have never learned tailoring if it wasn’t for Sudhaakka’s(elder sister)classes. Usually, such classes are conducted in the city and we have no means of going there,” says Meenakshi (33), Sudha’s student. Another student, Sunanda (35), says, “Once all of us learn, it is our dream to start a tailoring unit and take bulk orders. It will give a living for many families here.”

Sudha’s quest to make her family’s life better has proved to be fruitful in many ways, especially when it comes to her children’s education. Her daughter Priyanka studies D. Pharm at the Rani Chennamma College in Belgaum and her son Prajwal studies in class 10. “Me and my husband have a dream of providing good education to our children. Priyanka’s college fees are around Rs. 70,000 a year. She stays with my elder sister in Belgaum which saves me hostel fees. My earning from tailoring job is the only reason I am able to send her to college,” she says.

Inspired with her own success, Sudha now wants to help others like her to earn a livelihood. “This was a lot easier for me as I knew stitching. But, many women here do not know any skill in particular. They need to be trained either in tailoring or other jobs like candle making,” she says. She is hoping to do it through their SHG, with the help of World Vision India. While the women in the community are so happy that they are getting more opportunities.

A small help can bring in a positive and massive change in the lives of several women in the community. Those like Sudha, who have transformed their lives act as catalysts for change, role models to encourage more women to learn new skills and earn a livelihood. “When the lives of women change, it changes the lives of their families, most importantly that of their children, who stand to benefit the most and are the future of a country, “says Sudha.