We did it! A project to train 10 tribal and disabled women

We did it! On 29th April 2020 we successfully raised £2,432 with 59 supporters in 28 days (an additional ~£600 was also raised offline) to train 10 tribal and disabled women to sew in Pondicherry, India. The total we needed to raise to fund the project in full was £5780, and while we didn’t reach 100%, we did incredibly well (particularly as fundraising during a global pandemic is not an ideal time to ask people to contribute funds!).

Viji, one of our trainees, wearing a face mask and holding up a "thank you sign"
Viji, one of the 10 trainees

Although we didn’t hit the full goal, I’ve discussed the project plans with my partners from Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust, and we have unanimously agreed to proceed to train the 10 trainees for several months (likely 4 or 5 as opposed to 6 months as originally planned). This means we will be able to provide all 10 of them with valuable livelihood training skills, proper tailor training so that they can either work full-time with Sewing the Seeds creating beautiful upcycled sari products for Shakti.ism and other social enterprises, and pay each of them a daily stipend throughout the training. Upon completion we aim to pay them fair wages for tailoring work. We also plan to use the remaining funds to purchase a few pieces of much needed equipment to benefit the existing tailoring team and the 10 trainees.

We’ll use 100% of the crowdfunding money as follows:

  • 5 x electric professional grade quality training machines (20,000 Rs. each)
  • 1 x overlock machine (27,000 Rs.)
  • All remaining funds will be used to cover training costs and pay training stipends to each of the 10 trainees (250 Rs. per day of training, for as long as possible up to and including 6 months)

You can meet the 10 remarkable trainees and read their inspiring stories here.

We haven’t worked out the details as to when we’ll be able to commence training just yet, as India is still not out of complete lockdown due to COVID-19, and many states are still mostly closed for business. Pondicherry, a union territory in India, has opened up and is allowing some businesses to operate, provided that health and safety of all workers is prioritised, and proper protocols are in place for hand-washing, social distancing, and general well-being. Once we have clear guidance on how to proceed, we will purchase all of the equipment and will commence the tailor training, but only when it’s safe to do so. It may end up happening in batches in order to allocate social distancing and health and safety requirements, but that remains to be seen.

Project recap

We are launching 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 have raised via the crowdfunding project 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 (Shakti.ism) products will be made from upcycled sari fabric, to reduce waste. We have other partners who will continue to commission different types of products from Sewing the Seeds as well.

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. The ten trainees have the option of working with Sewing the Seeds once they complete the training, or they have the option to go into business on their own if they prefer. Either way, we will fully support whatever they decide to do!

Mani, one of our trainees, seated at a sewing table and holding up a "thank you sign"
Manimegalai, one of the 10 trainees

Thank you

Last but not at all least, we sincerely thank each and every one of you who pledged, contributed, helped us fundraise, and supported all of us throughout the entire campaign. We could not have gotten this far without every single one of you – so thank you, wholeheartedly. Your generosity and kindness will help improve the lives of these 10 women, and we are incredibly grateful.

I also promised shout-outs to bigger contributors for crowdfunding rewards (you have to be creative with rewards when you run a nonprofit :-)), and would like to give a very big extra thank you to (in no particular order):

Monica, Louise, Åsa, Åsas kara vänner, Rosy, Victoria, Dinu, Jennie, Ingela, Shweta, Catharina, Jonathan, Diane, Kumie, Gayle, Laura, Jan, Stuart, Milo, Thibault, Remedios, Yat, Nini, Natasha, Dave, Macarena, Lainie, Lawyer Cat (haha), Neil, Alex, M+M, Lilla, Clark, Kavita, Sophie, Mom + Dad, Raju, Petter, and everyone else who donated (but chose to remain anonymous – THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.

Be sure to check back here for updates and/or sign-up for the Shakti.ism mailing list (and 10% off!) if you want to learn more about the project and get regular (but not too regular) impact updates.

I look forward to providing all of you with another update in the not-too-distant future about this project. Thank you.

With gratitude,

Jitna, Founder of Shakti.ism