Graduates outside the new sewing centre
Sambhali has been in the process of transformation over the last few weeks which has evolved in having a new larger and better sewing centre for the graduates. We have found 2 large rooms which have just been refurbished and are perfect for our new sewing centre. We have a new set of graduates, who have spent the last 2 years at the Payal Empowerment Centre and have moved into one of the rooms, alongside the graduates from Prithivipura who have moved into the other room. Although we were confident this would be a better structure in the long-term, we needed to gain the confidence of the Prithivipura girls who were moving from their own sewing centre, they had been running successfully under Sambhali’s umbrella for over 2 years. We asked them what they thought and after a discussion between themselves they were very happy to move to a better premises.
Now we have the space to develop new ideas, produce garments and work on larger scale orders as well as space for the stages in production and storage. Our first order at this new centre is for 1000 bolster covers which has got our new set of graduates into production mode very quickly and when they realised that the order coincided with the Holi Festival, they pulled out all the stops to finish the first part of the order so that it could be completed on time.
At present we have just finished an order for 200 block-printed scarves in 4 different colours and are now working on building up the stock of scarves and bags for the Sambhali Boutique, which is in central Jodhpur. Following that we also have an order for a variety of soft toys and also some shoulder bags in the pipeline. Building up our orders is important to creating a sustained all-year round income for the graduates and so we are always happy to hear from people who are interested in any of our products.
We have 10 graduates at present ranging in age from 20-45 years old. Two of the older women, Saraswati and Radha are the supervisors of each group and all the graduates have either come from the Dalit community or have a disturbing story to tell. Santosh a lively, keen woman with 2 young children, has an alcoholic husband, who drinks away any money he earns without caring for his family, leaving Santosh the burden and responsibility of looking after the household, caring for the children and trying to provide for them. She bursts into tears when she tells the story of how her children stand outside the school gates, watching the other children go to school, knowing that she can’t afford the clothing, equipment etc to enable the children to go to school. Understanding this, Sambhali Trust is now looking for sponsors for her two children to go to a good school, under its Scholarship Programme. Usha is 20 years old and has been a graduate for 2 years. She told us the other day, that she was due to get married to a boy recently, that would have been arranged a long time ago, but her mother said that as now she was earning a regular income, she was independent and she could wait for a longer period of time to get married. This is quite a revelation in lower caste families where their daughter is generally married as soon as possible, because they are seen as a burden on the family, usually having no opportunity to earn a good living. Usha has now been earning an income for 2 years and so she would not want to give this up lightly, to be the dutiful wife and revert back to doing the household chores. Hopefully, her family will find her a husband (as all marriages are arranged in this community), who respects her new found independence and her ability to work outside the home, be creative and use her own ideas.
Tamanna, our Arts and Crafts teacher who has been with Sambhali for the last 5 years, will now become the supervisor of the Graduates Centre and will help with developing samples and patterns and give advice where necessary. We have also been very fortunate in having volunteers who are spending a few months working with the graduates who are dressmakers. They have introduced them to western styles of clothes and have produced about 10 different tops, skirts and trousers where the girls have also learnt methods of finishing seams, button-making, darts and the use of interfacing. The women have been very keen to learn the new techniques and are now very adept at using the electric sewing machines that have been donated. We are going to produce a selection of these styles for the Sambhali Boutique as well as keeping a record of all the patterns, for future potential orders.
Usha block-printing scarves
Radha and Rita sewing bolster covers
Santosh using electric sewing machine
Tamanna in the new sewing centre