At Vidya Gaikwad’s house in Pusad town in Maharashtra, we find her busy instructing a group of young women who are seated on the floor, poring over embroidery patterns. Vidya smiles as we enter her house, where she lives with her in-laws, husband and two young children before continuing with the lesson.
Pusad is a small town in Yavatmal district in Maharastra. Over the past seven years, Vidya has painstakingly built a tailoring business from scratch. Today, for a small monthly fee, she trains young women from Pusad in the basics of sewing and embroidery. Though she has an established business that provides her with an income, the initial years of the business, Vidya recalls, were very tough.
In the beginning, Vidya did not have funds to buy machines or or other materials to start her business. With money hard to come by and little interest from customers, she caught a break when a local NGO in Pusad put her in touch with Rang De. A low-cost loan allowed her to start a tailoring unit of her own.
After successfully repaying the first loan, Vidya gained the confidence to apply for a bigger loan and expand her business. As the months progressed, she gained a reputation in town as a good and reliable tailor. Increasingly, she was sought out by the neighbours and extended acquaintances, who wanted their blouses stitched and sarees embroidered.
Vidya is a diligent and hardworking woman, balancing her tailoring work with the demands and pressures of domestic life. Along with the tailoring business, she also tends to the needs of her children and manages the expenses of the household. The money she earns from tailoring also adds to the family income, helping make ends meet.
Professions like tailoring offer women in small towns across rural India a valuable source of livelihood but the income is not stable, fluctuating with demand. During the lean season, when there are few orders from customers, the tailoring classes that Vidya takes up provides her with a little money.
More than the money, Vidya offers the classes because she wants to help out other women like her. Coming from a working-class background herself, she knows that in many families, even a few hundred rupees more can go a long way.
When we speak to her, Vidya outlines her future plans for us: she wants to invest in more sewing machines so she can accomodate more students and increase the frequency of the classes. Always one to look to the future, Vidya’s journey so far — from starting a successful tailoring business to mentoring other young women from the town — is remarkable and truly inspiring.
A version of this article first appeared here on Sheroes.
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