This is an ongoing project which we are delighted to support. Thank you to everybody who has supported these women by buying sewing machines.
Two tailoring centres were opened in 2020 but unfortunately the pandemic led to the closure of one of them. However, 22 tailoring students have made excellent progress throughout the year and learnt the skill of tailoring quickly and proficiently.
The tailoring students have also joined an ‘Entrepreneurship Scheme’, enabling them to buy materials from Bombay through an agency, make garments and other items and then send back the finished products to the agency.
So far the 22 women have each made 2500 Covid masks and sold them for 3 Rupees, earning 7500 Rupees for one week’s work. When you contrast this week’s earnings with that of the alternative of extremely hard physical work i.e. labouring in the fields for 200 Rs per day, it serves as another example of just how worthwhile and liberating the Tailoring Project is.
Fr Francis took us to two villages where we have provided sewing machines for their tailoring centres. Up until recently, the large treadle sewing machines and fabric store took up half of each tailoring teacher’s home – typically one room. Without sacrificing this amount of space the tailoring school could not have started. Now, thanks to some funding we received from a Charitable Trust in 2014, both villages now have their own new building that can double up as a meeting hall and tailoring centre for the women’s groups and a tuition centre for the children. Children meet after school for two hours every day for extra lessons, and pre-school children come for their first experience of education. We went to both these new buildings and met with the local women.
Later this year we were taken to 3 villages to meet the 31 students who had all completed their 8 month tailoring apprenticeship. The girls were handed out certificates and sewing machines and needless to say they were all extremely pleased to receive these. The Tailoring Scheme has been a great success and all these students who have completed their apprenticeship now have the opportunity to work from home and create another source of income as well as their field work. We learnt that already the students have started to make school clothes, actually for no payment at this stage as they want to gain some hands-on experience before charging for their work.
A new tailoring centre for 8 Dalit teenage girls opened in the village of Ramathnal. Learning the skill of tailoring will lead to greater financial independence for each of the girls, as at the moment the only work they have have is seasonal 'coolie' (labouring) work that is poorly paid and extremely tough, physically and emotionally as they are treated very badly by their landlords.
The tailoring apprenticeship will take 6 months to complete; once completed each girl will pay whatever she can afford towards a new sewing machine so that she can work from home; the rest of the cost will be paid by Supporting Dalit Children.
In one village called Rajalli, Father Eric wants to help by providing Singer sewing machines that will be loaned on an initial basis for 6 months, with the understanding that the women jointly pay for a seamstress to teach them and provide a room in which they can work. A seamstress will cost 100 rupees per month - an affordable sum divided by 15 or so women. This partnership is all part of Father Eric’s ethos of not giving as such, but rather supporting ventures that make sense and can bring in supplementary income to the family. Surprisingly, a new Singer pedal machine costs Rs 4000 which is about £55, but we liked this idea very much as it will help the women especially. Every month Father Eric will visit Rajalli to see their progress. I sat with these women and listened to their stories of hardship. It was heart-breaking to listen to their fears due to lack of work available to them and their pathetic wages. They are only needed as ‘coolie’ workers for four months a year and earn a meagre 50 rupees a day. This money must last them throughout the months when they have no work, and on top of these hardships, their husbands also beat them. At least for the women of Rajalli, there is hope that the sewing machines will bring more money into each household.