From misfits to outfit designers


The white walls of RC Kankaria, D 3051’s Rotary Vedic Apparel Training Centre, are decorated with fabric, thread and instructions in Gujarati on the different types of sewing patterns. A group of Rotarians give instructions to freshly qualified trainees on their D Day — an opportunity to get placed in big textile houses like Arvind Mills and Ashima in Ahmedabad. “Hum aapko chod kar nahi jayenge (we are not going to leave you),” says Guddi, a trainee. Travel allowance, a decent stipend and good chai-nashta (tea and snacks), has made her comfortable here.
The centre that started four years ago is housed in the club’s own building and lists jobs for women from rural background. Rtn Bina Desai, Project Coordinator, reminds them that “this job can give you the money you need to educate your children and lead an independent life.” These women from rural villages aren’t a part of the earning world and if they want to pursue a vocation “kisiko bhai nahi anney deta toh kisiko pati (male family members do not allow them to work),” says Pushpa, the coordinator of the training centre. She meets women from nearby villages and convinces them to join the training programme.

The trainees start with basic stitching lessons and within two months “I could stitch Aishwarya Rai wala lehenga for my daughter,” says a confident trainee. Most of these women are victims of domestic violence, dowry harassment and poverty. “My husband asks me if I am going out with another man and blames me for not paying enough attention to household chores,” says Rekha and thanks members of Inner wheel and Rotary Legal Aid that work with their families to address grievances and conduct regular counselling sessions.

Each year the centre distributes 130 machines to women from different villages. At the centre, they not only learn tailoring, but tip each other on “how to download facebook, games and watch the latest Hindi songs on Youtube,” laughs Guddi. RC Kankaria has an adult literacy training facility in the same premises that provides rural women with basic education. The club’s beautician training programme is a front runner as skilled beauticians “don’t have to necessarily work in a parlour. They can go to different houses and provide beauty services and don’t have to divide their earning,” says Bina. There are courses on handbag making and mehendi too.

When these women get jobs outside they do not want to settle for anything less than their stipend. “They gave me 30p for a piece, so I quit and came back here,” complains Guddi. In her defence she adds “Dusri jagah dant bhi sehni padti hai (we have to bear with scolding at our workplace),” In about six months they can get a hike and easily make Rs 5,000–10,000, explains Bina. On the other hand, Ganga, another trainee, is very happy that “Lakshmi ghar aayegi,” and she will be able to educate her children and start her own business someday.

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