IL&FS & MRIDA: RAJLAKSHMI STITCHING CENTRE
The Rajlakshmi Stitching Centre provides an excellent example of the ‘Virtuous Circle’ in action. Once Tahtajpur was electrified, the local Village Development Committee (VDC) began collecting monthly energy access fees from beneficiaries. A group of local village women applied for a loan from the committee to invest in advanced stitching training and subsequently to begin a centre of their own. Eight women completed the NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) advanced stitching certification and founded the Rajlakshmi Stitching Centre in 2015.
Their first order, 120 sets of children’s uniforms for Panchi, an IL&FS supported school based in Delhi, eventually led to several such orders on a regular basis – from Panchi and from other customers, and helped make Rajlakshmi a financially viable and sustainable initiative.
In August 2016, Jaypore, an E-Commerce company based in New Delhi, partnered with the centre to make 500 muslin bags which they used to package their customer orders. The firm was so satisfied with the product quality and the services rendered that their orders became a regular feature and the orders are ongoing. Apart from ‘institutional’ customers, the women also cater to their own clothing needs and accept orders from villages in the vicinity.
A similar centre was set up by the women of Faridapur Inayat Khan - Aparajita Vikas Samuh (AVS). Through continuous training and upskilling, the women have been making merchandise, apparel and lifestyle products for several companies/organizations in the urban market. The women of AVS undertook and completed an order for workshop bags for Superwomen in Business conference, powered by Google for Startups in association with 91springboard in June 2019. This created a link between the women entrepreneurs in the village to the women entrepreneurs in the urban setting. In September 2019, the women of both the collectives created Diwali Hampers for around 1100 members of the 91springboard coworking community. The women of AVS and Rajlaxmi Stitching Centre have also made potlis for the sustainable menstrual health company Boondh. The women have also stitched baby suits for a French label, ‘Navilou,’ as well as made a series of palazzos and head bands that were sold on university campuses in the US.
To ensure holistic empowerment, menstrual health & hygiene workshops were conducted for the women of both Rajlaxmi Stitching Centre & Aprajita Vikas Samuh. The workshops educated the women about menstruation - from busting taboos and myths, to discussing hygiene, female anatomy and creating support systems to open up a dialogue about women's health. Menstrual cups were distributed to the women in an attempt to provide safe, environmentally friendly and affordable periods. The cups were provided through a public fundraising campaign on Donatekart, and provided by Pee Safe.