Next up: A women’s empowerment project to train 10 tribal and disabled Indian women in tailoring, with ongoing employment

“Handouts are not going to end global poverty, but work – real work – just might” – Leila Janah

The Project

Launch a Women’s Empowerment Sustainable Livelihood Project to train 10+ tribal and disabled Indian women. This project will be a partnership between Shaktiism CIC, Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust, a reputable registered trust in Pondicherry. The amount we need to raise will cover instruction fees, supplies, sewing machines and equipment, daily stipends for the trainees and administration costs including quality control. 10 local women have already been identified and are eager to pursue this livelihood skills training and the chance to obtain ongoing dignified employment and fair wages.

Samugam India will facilitate the training at their Sewing the Seeds tailoring centre, and Shakti.ism will provide some financial support, design specifications, create (product) demand, crowdfund, and will own sales and marketing. The goods will be made from upcycled sari fabric, to reduce waste. 

The women and girls chosen to participate in this programme are from local marginalised communities with a heavy emphasis on physically disabled women in need of becoming self-reliant. We are committed to empowering tribal and underprivileged women in Pondicherry.

Once the training is completed, Shakti.ism will commission successful graduates to create goods, market and sell them locally in the UK and beyond, and then reinvest the profit back into the maker community, ideally to fund more trainings and to benefit the existing graduates and tailoring team. 

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Meet the trainees

Bhuvaneshwari is a widow with a 6 year old daughter. She has been through a lot of difficulties, and she’s the sole carer for her child. Bhuvaneshwari wants to complete this training to gain ongoing employment so that she can afford to educate her daughter.

Gayathri is a local gypsy girl. Her parents sell beaded necklaces and toys on the roadside. She wants to be trained in tailoring in order to help herself and family. Before she started coming to Samugam’s JalyHome orphanage, she and her family used to eat scraps from the garbage and beg. Her 14-year old brother is staying at JalyHome and is now studying thanks to the opportunities he is given by Samugam. Samugam provided Gayathri’s parents with products to sell to allow them to become self-sustainable. She’s a regular visitor to the Sewing the Seeds tailoring centre and is very excited about completing the training. 

Kalaiselvi has been disabled since birth. She is married and has two children (one boy and one girl). She comes from a very poor family background and wants to earn income so that she can start to invest in her future. She says she’s unable to take out a loan, so once she completes the training, she hopes to be able to borrow from the bank. 

Viji has grown up at the JalyHome orphanage. She lost her father when she was only 5 years old. Soon she will complete year 10 of her studies and wants to complete tailor training in order to help and care for her sick mother.

Deiva Nayagi has been disabled since birth. She is married and educated, but because of her disability her employment options are extremely limited. She wants to take part in this training programme to become self-sustaining. She wants to start her own tailoring business after completing the training.


Janaki has been disabled since birth. She is married and has a daughter. Unfortunately she has no financial support as her husband is also disabled. Janaki wants to get trained in tailoring to become self-sufficient and provide for her family.

Shanmugap Priya is disabled and comes from a very poor family. She wants to get trained in order to become self-sustaining so that she is able to take care of her parents, and eventually get married. 

Manimegalai is an orphan girl who was abandoned by her own family. She has no education but this training programme will help her become self-sufficient, which she hopes will help improve her situation. Manimegalai is very happy about this opportunity, especially because she is not educated; this training will allow her to find dignified work and to support herself.  

Lakshmi is disabled and comes from a family with a very poor background. She wants to get trained in order to become self-sustaining so that she is able to take care of her parents, and eventually get married and settle down.

Bhavani was born with a disability. She is married and her employment options are very limited. She’s eager to join the training programme and earn a stipend, and eventually a regular income so she can be financially independent. 

All of the trainees we have identified are talented, capable women who are motivated to work, but are lacking the opportunity. 

We want to give them the opportunity that they deserve.

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The problem

Close to 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas with limited to no access to basic sanitation, health services, or electricity. Lack of access to these basic services contributes to widespread poverty, unemployment, and increasing indebtedness of households. Women in India are often seen as second-class citizens compared to men, so opportunities are even more limited. Women are not often in control of their finances, family situations or even their own earnings, and marginalised, disabled, poor or uneducated women even more so.

The solution

Wage disparity is widespread, but offering women opportunities to earn income and have a say in their households is empowering and can be life changing for women and their families. Studies show that correcting this gender imbalance can increase the prosperity of the country as a whole. Simply giving money to a woman is a short-term solution, but empowering her with skills and self-confidence is a long-term approach and the benefits are endless. 

By providing an opportunity for marginalised women to obtain transferable skills like sewing, we can help them to achieve financial independence. Empowering women to earn their own steady income means that they will be able to provide food, clothing, and other basic necessities and education for their children and other family members.

According to the UN, When women work, they invest 90% of their income back into their families, compared with 35 percent for men. By focusing on girls and women, innovative businesses and organisations can spur economic progress, expand markets, and improve health and education outcomes for everyone.

This programme will provide an opportunity for disadvantaged and tribal women in Pondicherry, India to gain employable and transferable skills, the chance to earn a fair living wage and not rely solely on the income of males, will provide fair working conditions, a safe supportive space, and support to encourage entrepreneurship to break the cycle of poverty and achieve financial independence. 

We are confident that with your support, we can deliver a meaningful and impactful project with quantifiable results for each of the trainees.

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The Cost

– Sewing machines (10 machines needed): 20,000 Rs.(~£215/$275) per machine or 200,000 Rs. (£2150/$2750) total

– Overlocker machine (1 machine needed): 27,000 Rs. (~£290/$370 each)

– Cost of training, materials, and daily stipend for 6 months of tailoring training per trainee: 250 Rs. per day or (~21 working days per month x 6 months) x 10 trainees) or Rs. 315,000 (~£336/$430) per trainee. 

Total (~£3360/$4300) total for 10 trainees

Total needed to fund full 6-month training for 10 trainees: Rs. 542,000 (~£5780/$7400)

**Note that Shaktiism CIC plans to fund 2 x sewing machines, 1 x overlocker machine and the cost of at least 1 trainee for 2020, so the total needed to bridge the gap and fund this project is Rs. 443500 (~£4730/$6055)

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Reward photos*

Find out more

Credits: Video by Stuart Cohen of Bottlebrush Media, sewing training photo by Sewing the Seeds, reward product photos by Shaktiism CIC, video music by Ben Sound

*Note that reward colours, designs and patterns may vary as they are each made from repurposed saris

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