Survival, a stitch at a time

Survival, a stitch at a time

Like to any other woman in her slum near Lakshminarasimha Kere in Dharwad, the inevitable COVID-19 lockdown brought misery to Yasmin Nisar Mangalavadekar. A trained tailor, she was forced to stop work temporarily as there were no fresh orders. Tailoring is the only source of income for this single mother of three. 

While she was struggling to make ends meet, similar plight of women in the neighbourhood moved her to think of an activity that could help them sustain through the crisis. She decided to put to use her tailoring skills to stitch face masks and create livelihoods for women in the neighbourhood.

For the last 50 days, five women from the locality have been stitching masks in Yasmin's 12X15 ft single-bedroom house. Around 20 slum dwellers engage in the activity from their homes. These women are now earning around Rs 5,000 per month, the sole income for their families during lockdown. They are among hundreds of women trained by Yasmin in tailoring in the past two years. 

"We stitch masks that are crucial to protect people from Covid-19. This, in turn, helps us subsist," says Yasmin. 

She acknowledges the support rendered by people and organisations who bought masks from them. Hubballi-based Deshpande Foundation purchased over 20,000 masks to be distributed among the frontline Covid-19 warriors including Dharwad Zilla Panchayat workers, Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation civic workers and police personnel. Yasmin is also grateful to Vani Purohit, the chief executive officer of Rehabilitative Assistance for People in Distress, for making this possible. 

Deshpande Foundation's Sandeep Sabarwal recalls Yasmin as a determined woman, who not only wished to lead a resilient life but also ensure that women around her are empowered. "Realising her qualities we trained her to become an entrepreneur, who could lead a team and help others earn a living," he said.

Yasmin has trained more than 400 people to stitch dress, bags and do embroidery work. Today, she has become a guiding light to many women in her locality.

“Like me, many people living in our slum have lost their sources of income due to lockdown. As dignified bread-earners, waiting for someone else to feed us was out of question. Deshpande Foundation supported us by giving a big order,” said Yasmin and her team completed the consignment of 20,000 masks in just eight days.

"Each one of us worked for 8-10 hours a day and completed the task in record time," said Saleema Bilagi. Her husband is a carpenter and couldn't get work even for a single day in the past two months. She shudders to think of her family's plight had she not got this opportunity.

Deshpande Foundation helped them with the know-how to stitch good quality masks apart from giving the first big consignment. Other NGOs and individuals followed with orders. The team has also sold over 5,000 masks to them at Rs 15 per piece. The team stitches two-layered and three-layered cotton masks.

Over 100 women from the locality have approached her to be part of the team that emerged from the crisis. Yasmin wants to accommodate as many people as possible but they don't have any fresh orders now. "With so many families in need of a livelihood, we can stitch about one lakh masks in 15 days," she said. 

For details, contact Yasmin on 8722620230.