With 3,500 New Silai Schools In The State, USHA And West Bengal Government Uplift Thousands Of Women
27-year-old Pauli Das hailing from Daspara village in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district is the sole bread winner of the family. Pauli was left to fend for her family after her father met with a serious accident and the family couldn’t afford the treatment.
When my father met with the accident, we could not even afford his treatment as we didn’t have enough money. I was studying to be a block trainer and was working as the Panchayat supervisor, when one day, Panchayat asked me to learn to stitch under USHA Silai School Programme. I realised that I can do this without compromising on my studies and I can eventually start a stitching business. I filled the form and I was selected for the training. And now, I teach stitching in my own Silai School and have 25 students, with new ones joining almost every day. https://vssewingmachine.in/
Just like Pauli, about 3,500 women’s lives in West Bengal are about to be transformed for good, thanks to the USHA Silai School initiative. With the common goal of empowering people at the bottom of the pyramid, in 2018 USHA and the West Bengal government collaborated on training stitching to 3,500 women from marginalised communities, by opening another 3,500 training schools in the state, as requested by the state government.
Today, around 20 per cent people of West Bengal live below the poverty line, with the majority located in rural regions. Only one out of 5 women in West Bengal completes her secondary education, which is lower than in most other states of the country. Yet, in the rural regions of this matriarchal state, women self-employment is 22 per cent ahead of men.
The first USHA Silai School in West Bengal was launched in 2012 and by 2017 the program’s success caught the attention of the West Bengal Scheduled Caste And Tribe Development Finance Corporation, which led to the life-changing initiative for thousands of women.
Krishna Shriram, Chairman, USHA International Limited told NDTV,
We are proud of what we did; we started 700 schools as part of West Bengal’s USHA initiative. In the business conclave held in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee acknowledged this initiative and requested USHA to start another 3,500 schools. West Bengal government realised that providing the sewing machines is not the solution but providing sewing machines along with training, is the ultimate solution,” he added.
Speaking about the initiative, Upen Biswas, Chairman, West Bengal SC-ST Development & Finance Corporations said,
What impressed me about USHA was not their brand but the work that they are doing. I visited their schools and the best part was that the women were able to make money. Supreme Court says social justice cannot be done without economical justice and the USHA program is doing just that.
When asked about the details of USHA Silai training, Saikat, Coordinator, USHA Silai School Program told NDTV that the training is a 3 step program for teaching them overall logistics of stitching.
With these new 3,500 schools that are being added in West Bengal, first the women were taught to stitch for 6 months then they were given mechanical training and enterprise training.
At the cusp of the Sundarban mangroves, USHA had set up a mechanical training centre for a batch of 20 women in a small village called Kakdwip. By the end of the program’s final class, the women were equipped with all the necessary skills to open their own Silai schools.
The excitement of running an USHA Silai School is a sentiment shared by 3,500 rural women of West Bengal. Today from the paddy fields of the south to the green hills in the north, these women are on their way to becoming small enterprise owners.
27 years old Sampa Rai of Dhapganj village that lies 100 kms south of Siliguri, along with her husband have invested all their savings in the construction of a brand new Silai School.
Sharing her story, she tells NDTV,
I am independent now, me and my husband work to provide for our family, I am happy that I can support my husband financially. I have also earned a lot of respect in the society because of my work. USHA is starting another 3,500 schools in West Bengal and I am happy to get one to run!
Another 100 kms from Siliguri, in a small village called Amarkhana, 33-year-old Geetika Roy has almost completed the construction of her Silai School.
Along with stitching garments, Geetika also picked up other insights during her training and is now cleverly recycling plastic bags to generate additional income. Talking about her success, she said,
People throw away the empty rice sacks or they burn these, I buy it for Rs. 2 and make a bag from it. I sell the small bag for Rs. 10 and the bigger one for Rs. 20. After my training from USHA, I earn a lot more compared to what I was earning earlier. I want to keep learning and hope to earn even more in the future. I want to start more schools and make more profits. I have so many dreams!
With the new Silai Schools launching in the state, 3,500 rural women like Pauli, Geetika and Sampa are becoming active contributors and drivers of the local economy. One step at a time!