Alappuzha: Flood-displaced women stitch a tale of survival

ALAPPUZHA: Athijeevanam (survival), a mini apparel unit initiated by Veeyapuram Panchayat as part of a capacity-building programme in association with District Kudumbasree Mission and NGO Save the Children among 45 underprivileged flood-hit women, is a success story.

Rural women selected from its 13 wards who received a 52-day training now stitch fashionable apparels for all, irrespective of gender and age.

With 45 high-tech stitching machines Save the Children brought spending Rs 19 lakh, the unit is capable of competing for mainstream markets.

Born in the socially and economically backward environment, they had decades of experience in running home-based stitching business.

They grabbed the skill and ability in making trendy stuff through the training given by the Kudumbasree Mission.   

The devastating floods last year had displaced and deprived them of their livelihood. They had to abandon their equipment and shift to relief camps.

Now, they are stitching up new dreams.    

The idea was born when Save the Children representatives approached the civic administration, in the low-lying Kuttanad region, with the capacity building programme.

"Our lives have turned more organised and productive, and of course, feel extremely confident," says Rubi John, 44, secretary of the unit whose stitching machine swept away by floods.

"The panchayat facilitated a building space to run the unit. For the last four months, the unit is operational and started getting orders. We learnt the nuances of fashion technology and embroidery and made a profit of Rs 1 lakh during the last four months. We have decided to produce more fashionable apparels with this money."

P.D. Shyamala, 56, the senior-most member of the unit and patron, says the training helped her to have a creative approach in her three-decade-long experience in stitching women's apparels.

Now her skill widened to stitch apparels including jeans, pants and shirts.

"The only issue we face now is a frequent power outage. Our next aim is to get a generator," she says.    

According to G. Prasad Kumar, the panchayat president, the initiative will make a long-term impact at the grassroots level.

"Projects like this is a tool of confidence-building and women empowerment," he said.

"When we approached women in the initial stage, most of them were shy. Many of them left midway of training. But with the project gaining shape, many have willingly come forward, but we limited the members at 45. Hopefully, the number could be increased in the future. Most of the women are young. When they become financially independent, they can provide better education to their children and set new goals in life."

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