Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Story of Rita

My name is Rita, I am 50 years old. I live in the suburbs of Jodhpur with my family.
I get up at 5.00am, I clean the space outside my house. I clean my house, I drink tea, clean the toilets and shower.  I make my prayer, I cook breakfast and after feeding everyone, I cook lunch and leave it behind. I bring a little tiffin box with food with me to work. I come to the Graduates Sewing Centre, I make embroidery and other handicrafts like Christmas decorations.
When I go home at 5.00pm, I rest a bit and make tea, and I refill water from the tank for my home. At 7.00pm I make my prayers and prepare dinner. When my husband comes home by 9.00pm, I warm up the food, and feed him. Around 10.00pm I do some work for Sambhali and my family watches TV. I sleep around 11.00pm.

Before I started at Sambhali, I worked at home doing little lace work in my free time. Some women came from my neighborhood for some sewing orders. They also introduced me to the Sambhali Trust. I asked for the permission from my husband and mother-in-law if I was allowed to go to sewing centre. They encouraged me, they said "you do a lot of work at home, yes, go and learn sewing". I enjoyed learning sewing, I learned for six months and was then gifted with a sewing machine. Once the centre closed, we joined the Graduates Sewing Centre and from that moment, my life was changed. I come here, meet the volunteers, learn new things. When I work here, I earn money from which I bought marriage symbolic ornaments, and jewellery.

All the other women here are full of love. We work here for 5 hours, laugh and spend quality time together.

We forget all the tension from home, we get busy here, we are happy here.
The biggest thing is that I have learned so many techniques in sewing. I have started to earn money for myself – I have no children, so I am not in need of a scholarship. Every day I do sewing, I earn money, and I have a lot of interest in my work.

The Trust is a safe place, there aren’t any problems, which makes me very happy. We can now make a living, whereas if we stayed at home, we would not be able to sustain ourselves financially. Nobody helps me at home. Then I come here, I meet other people, it is a relief. I am financially independent now. I am self-confident. I am glad that I am no burden on anybody. Since I left home and came to Sambhali Trust, I have learned a lot for myself.

Most importantly, through Sambhali, I have become independent.

Photo: Photographers Without Borders

Photo: Linda Roemer

See Rita's story and daily life here:

Monday, August 05, 2019

Voices of Shakti Empowerment Centre

Photos by: Linda Roemer

"My name is Prem. I am 19 years old. I am a student of Shakti Centre.  I love coming here. Besides sewing, we learn many different things here. We learn English from the volunteers. So many women want to study, but as they come from poor families, they were forced to drop out of school or not go to school at all. Now, through the centre, they have the opportunity to continue their studies. 

When I first came here, I was taught all the different kinds of embroidery, and later on, I got to try sewing with the machine. We learn how to make umbrella frock, salwar suit, patiyala suit, rajputi poshak, and much more. In the workshops every Wednesdays we are learning a lot too, especially regarding health-related problems. Because of this, the women come to know about their own health problems and how to deal with them. And every Saturday, we do special activities – dancing, singing, playing games and the teachers also give us food. The aim of Shakti Centre is to make us independent, to teach us how we can rely on ourselves in all situations. We gain a lot of self- confidence here – now, we are not afraid to go anywhere. We get to go outside the house, get to explore and experience the world. This centre has been running for nearly three years, and most of the women and girls find jobs after joining the course. 

These women do not need to depend on anyone else and are now walking proudly with their heads up. They are now walking every single step equally with men, on the same level, yes, we are all equal. We are also making other women aware of injustices and encourage them to fight against them - thus, we are good examples for others. That way, our lives are happier, and more enjoyable. I want to thank all the people in Shakti Centre – Because of them, women are now living their lives with pride and self-confidence. Women are raising their voices when they are experiencing injustice in their own lives and in the wider community. We are no longer silenced. Yes, the women that were silenced, those women, are raising their voices today."

Prem, 19 years old

"My name is Sunita. I am 33 years old. I have three children. My mother-in-law and father-in-law live with me. All the responsibilities of home are on me.  I am now the sewing teacher of Shakti Empowerment Centre of Sambhali Trust. I have a job now, and earn money to be financially independent. I am able to stand on my own feet now. I have been given a path for my future.
One day, my husband went to work as usual. There he spoke to one aunty who told him that if someone wants to learn sewing, then you can come to Shakti Empowerment Centre - and a few days later, on 4th October 2017, I went there with my sister in-law. During the first four days, we just watched the other ladies and tried a few first stitches ourselves, and continued with more difficult embroidery later on. We were also taught English by the volunteers. We like to talk in English and we have a one hour class for Hindi and maths as well. On Wednesdays we have workshops in which we gain new knowledge about other important topics. On Saturday, we play and read magazines. After joining Shakti Empowerment Centre, I told a lot of women and girls about it in our neighbourhood, that’s how ten more girls joined the centre.

8th March 2018 was the day where we celebrated International Women’s Day. On that day, at 4pm, my husband came home and he told me he had some burning sensation in his chest - and we went to the hospital. The doctor said it is nothing serious. Medicine was given to him, an hour later we came back home. He told me he was feeling better, that he will take care of the children and the house, and I should go and join the other girls and women and Sambhali staff for the big march on the streets for International Women’s Day. I went. At 7.30pm I got a call from him. He said he needed to go to the hospital again, that I shouldn’t worry. When I reached the hospital, he was in the emergency ward. He still continued to tell me that I shouldn’t worry about him, but the tears started flooding down my face. My Mother-in-law assured me that he is in good hands, the doctors will take care of him, and we should remain calm and hopeful. Later that night, in the hospital, some relatives came to the hospital as well. I asked them “what happened?”, and they said that he is going to be shifted to Ahmedabad. Everyone told me, my mother-in-law and my mother to go home and rest. My husband died that night. When we came to know, a mountain of sadness has crashed on our home. Only sadness and sadness. When my husband left, Manju mam, the teacher at Shakti Empowerment Centre, the volunteer Roxy and the other women of the centre came to my house. Manju mam gave me rupees for me and my children. And she told me that she will make sure that I will still be able to send my children to school. Then Manju mam and Roxy, they gave me the sewing machine and a certificate. After the death of my husband, for ten months, I was alone and sick and sad. I had to stay at home and mourn. I did not go to the centre during this time. Manju mam and Roxy told me to stay strong. Manju mam talked to Govind regarding my kids’ school fees and told him about me and my sewing skills. Now, my children are able to continue their education since Sambhali Trust has granted them scholarship. 

Manju and Roxy – thank you. Thank you for helping me to stand on my feet again. I learned sewing, and later I was assigned as the sewing teacher of Shakti Empowerment Centre. My parents-in-law are happy that I earn money now, and that I have a job nearby our house. The salary is very good, 4,500 rupees a month. My brother gave me scooter which I take to go to the centre every day.

Long live the power of women."

Sunita, now the sewing teacher of Shakti Empowerment Centre

Thursday, July 25, 2019

What is new at Sambhali Trust?

Text & Photos: Linda Roemer

In 2018-2019, we have experienced a number of changes at Sambhali Trust, all very positive developments for our organization.
This year, we have increased both the numbers of women and children we can reach and the quality of the lessons within the centres. 
While our existing centres continue to flourish, we have opened a new empowerment centre: Sakhi Empowerment Centre, opened in May 2018 and supported by our teachers Shenaz and Hawlesh. It had its first volunteers in January 2019 and is targeting women and adolescent girls in the local community. 

The opportunity to go to the Empowerment Centre every day brings a big smile on the women's faces

We have also collected valuable feedback from some of our international sponsors and volunteers over the year regarding the content of our lessons. With a greater focus on testing as well as dividing the groups according to levels, we are making it easier for our teachers and volunteers to track each student’s progress and see who needs additional help. Each centre has redesigned their timetable for the teachers, volunteers and students.

With the establishment of one more centre and additional teachers at our boarding homes, we have increased the total number of our local staff: Our team now consists of 41 dedicated and passionate people.

The first Aadarsh workshop was held in Sheerni
Boarding Home
A few centres plan to change their location in the following months, to provide space for more children and women and to ensure a better and more productive learning experience for everyone. We will shift the Graduate Sewing Centre to the building next to our current office, where the graduates will have more space and a more pleasant working environment. The office will be shifted to this building as well.

A new venture was founded this year, called the Aadarsh Project which is designed to teach adolescent girls and boys about topics relevant to them, such as the body change in puberty, sexual harassment, and the dangers of the Internet. We intend to take this workshop to all schools in Jodhpur, that we have connections with through our No Bad Touch Project. The first workshop was held in February 2019 at Sambhali‘s Sheerni Boarding Home.

In the Sambhali Graduate Sewing Centre, we have refined the responsibilities of the supervisors posts, so that the new graduates now have their own supervisor, Anita, whilst Pushpa and Praveen supervise implementation and quality checking of orders. 

166 women and girls received a sewing machine at the graduation ceremony held in May

The establishment of a garden for both boarding homes is in discussion for the end of 2019 – the garden should be a place where the children can grow their own herbs, fruits and organic vegetables, which would give the children valuable skills in farming and nutritious food. An extra plus is that the garden would reduce the costs for food in the boarding homes.

Furthermore, art exhibitions are organized both by British and Canadian volunteers, including members of Sambhali UK who came in February and March 2019 to do workshops with the sewing classes. 

Embroidered pieces exhibited in the UK in May

We also try to connect with newspapers and magazines more to increase our outreach and expand out public audience, to raise funds as well as awareness about our work.