When Shelter Associates started working in Sangli for the IHSDP project in 2009, it was realised that due to the setting of Sangli and Miraj in appalling poverty, a majority women in the slums had no opportunities to support their families financially. They decided with the help of Lata tai who is a trustee as well as a co-ordinator for the project, to design a programme to help uplift the condition of these downtrodden women by teaching them to stitch saree bags. Along with today’s need for recycled bags, there was a need for employment of these women. They worked on a comprehensive training programme that was targeted towards women with no proper skills of sewing and taught them how to sew reusable shopping cloth bags. They also helped the women with other aspects of the project like obtaining waste fabric and selling their product in the outside market.
Shelter Associates has helped these women acquire the basic skill set of sewing cloth bags, using sewing machines and other tools and selling them. Supriya Vaidya, an invaluable trustee, who is an excellent seamstress, took it upon herself to train these women in all aspects of sewing. The bags provide a steady source of income and employment for the women. They promote women empowerment as well as spread environmental awareness in the community. Shelter Associates has now helped the women stand on their own feet and form a co-operative called ‘Udyogita’. Currently, there are 25 women at Udyogita who work diligently and 40 who work variably. Shelter Associates have now taken up a back seat in Udyogita’s affairs but continue to lend them support in whatever way needed. eCoexist is now helping create a market for the bags they make.
Quoting one of the ladies in Sangli, “Being able to earn and support my family has made me confident and independent. It has given me a stronger voice in the house and the community likewise.”
eCoexist tied up with Shelter Associates to provide the cooperative a steady market and also do some hand holding in stock and inventory management as well as smooth production processes. Offering design and marketing inputs, eCoexist has been filling two of the major gaps in the process for the Udyogita cooperative. Working closely with Lata tai Shrikhande, one of the trustees of SA, the eCoexist team continues to addresses bottlenecks and facilitate the smooth production and marketing of cloth bags from Udyogita.