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#StoriesFromTheField | Champion of Gender Equality at the Grassroots: Empowering girls and women through tailoring training

For Rukhsar Kureshi, her day starts at the break of dawn. She does all her household chores, gets her kid ready for school, prepares lunch for herself and her old parents, gets ready for work and leaves the house at 8 o’clock in the morning. She travels a long distance from Rajgarh to reach Jhabua. Rukhsar reaches the Sara Seva Sansthan Samiti office by 9:30 AM. She plans for her lessons for her day and at 10 AM she is ready to welcome an enthusiastic batch of about 10-15 girls with a wide smile for the training session. Rukhsar Kureshi has been working closely with the Sara Seva Sansthan Samiti for almost a year now. SARA Jhabua received aid through Swasti’s IPO and this has enabled them to start a training center with special focus on women which trains them in tailoring, beauty and grooming and computer literacy. Rukhsar has played a detrimental role in setting up and running the tailoring training sessions.

She has been doing this for the last 7 to 8 years now. Initially she was taking tailoring classes and livelihood training under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PM-KVY) in Jhabua, Rajgarh and Dhar. At SARA Jhabua, she is single handedly managing the tailoring training centre with all the necessary support from Jimmy Nirmal, the founder director of the organization and also the rest of the staff of the organization. “The response is very good here. Girls and women come from all the neighboring areas and also from far away, 15 to 20 kms away too.” , says Rukhsar. The women who have taken the training have now started their own small business, some are working for small business owners. “The capital or investment is not a huge burden for the women and they can do the work from home, in their own time and they can make a good amount of money.”, she says. The women coming to the training share their problems with Rukhsar. They tell her how commuting becomes a huge problem. They also face resistance from the family sometimes and sometimes they cannot pay even the minimum fees for the course. Rukhsar says that none of the women are denied admission even if they are not able to pay the fees. Rukhsar talks in detail about what keeps her going. “I have chosen to do this because I am myself a woman and I know what problems women face.”, she says. She got married about 12 years back and very soon after her marriage, her husband left her to fend for herself. She and her child now live with her parents. She alone bears the burden of feeding everyone back home. The personal struggle that she has faced made her realize the need for a woman to be independent and self-reliant. “Har ladki ko apne pairo pe khade rehna chahiye.(Women should be independent and not dependent on others financially)”, says Rukhsar. The skills of tailoring and stitching clothes was something she could fall back upon in the difficult times and she could feed all the mouths through this. Her skills and determination is what got her out of the problems she was facing. “Isiliye har ladki ladki ke paas hunar hona zaruri hai. (That is why she feels it is important for women to have skills and be trained.)”, says Rukhsar. “This work is not only putting food on our plates, it is also giving me a sense of purpose.I am able to empower so many young women and instill them with hope. I love what I do.”, says Rukhsar. #COVIDActionCollab has always vouched for champions of change like Rukhsar Kureshi who are helping us create a purpose driven, sustainable impact in the society and reach the vulnerable population in the remotest corners of the country.