Picking up the threads

At the recent charity event held in Hyderabad, many celebrities like Namrata Shirodkar were seen wearing fashion designer Divya Reddy’s outfits, which were in fact, stitched by women inmates of the Telangana State prison. Interestingly, the designer has employed nearly 50 inmates of the prison who are serving life terms by giving them not just a salary, but a big dose of self-confidence too.

Fashion designer Divya Reddy has employed nearly 50 women inmates from Telangana State prison and assured them of a job once they complete their term.

Divya says that her personal experiences drove her to take up this initiative. “I went through a bad and abusive marriage, but thanks to the support of my family and friends, I came out of it and became who I am today. That’s when I thought that with a little bit of help, anyone can stand on their own,” explains Divya, adding, “I could fall back on my family, but what about these women in jail?”

Initially, she admits that she thought of giving them shelter after their release, but she soon realised that they would not find jobs because of their background. “I wanted to give them some work by which they would earn a salary. The Telangana government supported my cause and encouraged me,” she shares.

Elaborating on how it all happened, Divya says, “The prison department officials arranged a meeting where nearly 50 inmates joined me. My team and I visited the prison, taught them to stitch and also took a few classes initially. Most of the women are facing life terms, but can get self-employed after release if they learn these skills.” Not just that, Divya ensures that all the women get paid for their work. “That way, they can send money to their families back home,” she says.

Of course, there were challenges along the way. “I spent nearly three to four hours with them initially and explained everything to them. Their mindset is different and it was not easy to convince them, but the prison officials helped me explain my cause. That’s when they agreed to do this work,” she says.

Once the inmates saw pictures of celebrities wearing the outfits stitched by them, Divya admits that it not only made them very happy but also boosted their confidence. “Even the celebrities know and appreciate that the outfits are designed by the women jail inmates,” says the designer.

Interestingly, the very first collection that was showcased recently was at the Heal A Child charity event. “The first collection was a great success and now, I have to start the second edition for which I am meeting the jail inmates on October 15 and 16,” says the designer, who has also started an NGO called ‘Her Right’ which supports women who are facing difficulties and helps them to stand their own.

“I don’t believe in charity. Instead, I want to give them an opportunity and help them settle in their life. You can give charity for a few days, but it won’t help them. I want to give them a platform so that they can make a life after prison,” she concludes.

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