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USHA’s Mechanical Training Helps Bridge The Gender Divide For Women Entrepreneurs

USHA’s Mechanical Training Helps Bridge The Gender Divide For Women Entrepreneurs


“Women of Manipur are born entrepreneur, they are blessed with natural skills,” states Anupama, the representative from a local NGO People’s Development Society. Manipur, nestled in the lush green landscape of North East India, literally means ‘a jeweled land’ and is a mosaic of ancient traditions and rich cultural patterns. When it comes to the women of Manipur, they are known for their valor, skills and active contribution in various social and political spheres. They’re known for defying gender roles and their contribution to the economy of Manipur is equally vast.

Anupama further explains that the men hailing from rural Manipur usually work in farms, which doesn’t pay much. Surviving gets tougher with the low income and the women are forced to deal with the economic pressure in addition to the other issues faced by them living in poverty.

We are trying to help these women to overcome their economic problems along with Usha, she said.

29-year-old Sorokhaibam Latasana, who lives with her husband, three children and mother-in-law, has successfully been running an USHA Silai School at Manipur’s Ghari Awang Leikai. Her husband, engaged in farming and petty trades used to be the sole breadwinner and his unstable income was not sufficient to manage the growing needs of their family.

To help her husband with extra income, Latasana began working at a tailoring shop as a daily wage earner in Imphal bazaar. However, she didn’t feel the work was dignified and it often became difficult for her to go to work due to family inconveniences. Every time she missed work, her earning staggered and she remained worried.

The Pradhan of Imphal West’s Ghari Village, Ratan Singh, noticed her sewing skills and helped her financially. He advised her to start a training centre for those who were eager to learn stitching.

She joined Usha Silai School to enhance her skills from different types of stitching work and even learned how to fix sewing machines.

Latasana is not just a teacher now, she is also a mechanic as she also learned how to fix and repair a sewing machine in her 7 days of training at the Usha Silai School program. This mechanical training has helped her save additional money, as earlier she used to take her machine to service centers, but now she fixes it herself.

Latasana finally began her entrepreneurial journey with her own Usha Silai School training centre in December 2017.

She began teaching people how to sew, alter and fix school uniforms. She also taught them how to fix the machines and Latasana tried to share the experience that she had inculcated at the USHA Silai School, Mr. Singh told NDTV.

Latasana wishes to undertake further training in order to increase her proficiency in this skill.

Latasana told NDTV,

Before this initiative, I barely had an income but the situation has changed, now that I get numerous stitching orders. I earn about Rs. 10,000 a month, along with the additional 400-500 for the sewing machines that I fix, which is good enough to help my family’s needs.

Another success story of USHA Silai School initiative from Manipur, is that of Elangbam Surbala’s, who hails from East Imphal. Surbala’s husband abandoned her, leaving her to be the sole bread earner of her family and now she single-handedly keeps the family going. The family’s main source of income is farming – barely enough for them to live on.

So, Surbala decided to put her basic sewing skills to use to earn that extra money. However, she felt the need to learn more and that is when she enrolled in the Usha Silai School.

As of this day, Surbala earns about Rs. 4000 from her students at the Silai school and with the addition of orders, she manages to make at least Rs.12000 every month.

The Usha Silai School program also made its way to the villages of Rajasthan, here too, this training goes beyond the mainstream, setting an example in gender equality. The women of Rajasthan have also been given mechanical training, which will help them not only use but also repair the sewing machines – traditionally considered a man’s job.

One of the women is Bina, who lives 150 km away from Jaipur, in a village called Beerampur. Stitching and sewing are Bina’s hobby but she learned how to fix sewing machines because she always wanted new challenges. Little did she know that she would have to use this skill to support her entire family, after the death of her husband, she was left to be the sole breadwinner of her family, providing for a son and a daughter.

I got the training for repairing from USHA Silai School in 2013, I already knew how to stitch but I didn’t know how to finesse. Now, I get to make additional money over and above of the money I make the stitching, thanks to the repairing skills I got the opportunity to learn.

Despite being a small endeavor, the initiative has taken significant steps that have helped marginal groups in India

USHA Silai School is empowering women like Latasana, Surbala and Bina, who are struggling to make ends meet by providing them the means to break shackles of poverty and move to a life of dignity and independence.