These women have just completed a six-month tailoring course. For each of them, it’s the first time they have ever received any kind of recognition or degree. The very first time.
They learned how to make traditional saris for themselves and young women coming of age. They learned to make baby clothes, undergarments, and tunic-style tops with matching pants. Daily, their fingers practiced embroidery and how to carefully guide fragile silk and satin through mechanized sewing machines. Almost every woman we met was wearing her very own creation, pride beaming across her face with the knowledge that she can clothe herself, her family, and nearby villagers.
They also learned about community. Every tailoring center brings together women who don’t know each other. Sometimes, they are from different faiths, even adversarial religions. Sometimes they are from different family backgrounds, Dalit or other castes that do not associate with each other. Cultural walls break down and friendships are forged as they learn to make button holes and trace patterns. Every ceremony has that bittersweet emotion of the joy of accomplishment and the pain of separation.
Thankfully, many of these women will join a small group designed to help them with financial management. We will help them learn to manage money, get loans, lean on each other, and make their new start-ups thrive. These groups support each other when one has a medical need requiring extra finances or an idea to expand their business. There are no cut-throat business practices here. They work together and lift each other up. Women FOR women. Women HELPING women. Women EMPOWERING women.
In addition to the training centers all across India, about 60 women are employed at our main sewing center. They will make 100,000 uniforms for children in our schools. They work for a fair living wage in a healthy and safe environment. Many of these women are moms of students in our schools and members of the local community.
Women give 90% of their income back to their families, to feed them, clothe them, and lift them out of poverty. Their children will see a mom who feels good about herself and believes in her ability to care for herself and others. That dignity translates into children who finish school, who get college degrees, and who take one more step, and generational leap, to set their family on a new path of dignity and freedom.
That’s economic empowerment at its finest. You don’t just lift up one woman. You change the direction of an entire family, forever.