Last month we managed at last to buy our own minivan for the girls to be transported in, instead of the need for rickshaws. As I realized the other day, it needs to be slim, to go down the narrow streets in Jodhpur and in their communities, weaving in and out of the traffic and in between the cows, carts etc! We had hoped for this for a long time and thanks to your support, finally we’ve managed to get it. It means now we can transport the girls to and from the Empowerment Center; the Graduates to the Sewing Center, the teachers to our new Empowerment Center, “Sambhali Sisters for Sisters Project” which is about 11km on the outskirts of Jodhpur in a shelter home for orphaned girls. All the girls love it and it’s so useful it’s used all day long!
1st June saw the opening of our new Boutique in the town center, near the Clocktower in Jodhpur. We decided to move to a different site, which is now on the pathway route up to the Mehrangarh Fort, the main tourist attraction in Jodhpur, so it is easily visible. It has taken us a month to fit it out and we are now very happy with the result. We have employed Monica who has been a student of Sambhali since the beginning, was then sponsored to go to school and has been one of the best students in her class. Her father died a couple of months ago and the income of her family is relied upon through her sister who works in the Graduates’ Sewing Center and herself, as her mother is unable to work now. Monica is so happy to be working in the boutique and we haven’t forgotten her studies, so we are making sure that she has private tuition at the same time, so that she can resume her education when she wants to. We feel that the experience she will get working in the boutique will also help to increase her self-confidence and her ability to manage the sales, stock etc. We have high hopes of Monica doing really well in the future, because of her all-round ability, adaptability and enthusiasm to do everything and her interest in women’s empowerment.
The girls in the Jodhpur Empowerment Center have been working hard on learning how to make garments (salwaars and kurtas) and also doing quilting techniques and products including making shoulder bags. We have had a couple of volunteers, one of whom returned to do a theater workshop for a month. They developed a performance which demonstrated examples of the type of problems that women face in Rajasthan including verbal and physical abuse. The girls developed their drama skills and really enjoyed giving performances in both Jodhpur and Jaipur for International Women’s Day. We’ve had many volunteers helping with English tuition and Arts and Crafts classes as well giving different workshops including family-planning workshops which were given by Carlotta, a professional volunteer we were lucky enough to have from Germany .
The graduates have fulfilled making an order of soft toys including cats and monkeys, elephants and camels for an organization in the US. We had a little good-bye party to a volunteer who had been with us for 3 months, Marlies Schmid, who has taught the women how to make western-style garments – trousers, tops, skirts and dresses. The women have been so keen and committed to learn and they have had daily tuition from Marlies for the last 12 weeks. We have found a supplier of printed cotton in Jodhpur and now we are making these clothes out of printed cotton together with some linen trousers for the Boutique. All the women went down to the Boutique a couple of days after it opened again, to see all the things they have been making displayed in the shop. It was lovely to see how much it meant to them. So now we are able to produce garments and welcome any orders! We are developing samples for potential orders at the moment after the women have been working hard for a month stocking up the boutique.
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