Kumbaya — Empowering More Than Just Hands Training 1,000 Tribal Women in Dewas

August 16, 2016
By Rang De Team

Kumbaya empowers over 1,000 women who shifted from agriculture to machine-based stitching work with a steady income in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh

Kumbaya are one of our newest Impact partners based in the tribal drylands of Dewas (we give education loans to rural students studying at Sant Singaji Institute of Science & Management as well) in Madhya Pradesh. Working in the region for the past 18 years, they bring poor women from these tribal communities together to learn a skill and earn their way out of poverty.

Most of these tribal women had never stitched a garment before. Today, over 1000 women in 70 villages have learned stitching.

These wiry women were accustomed to moving all the time, from forest to field to hearth carrying heavy loads and Kumbaya now teaches them a skill that needs stillness, precision and craftsmanship.


Gora walks on her hands.

She does not have functional legs and is part of the regular production team at Neemkheda.

She walks on the dirt track from her house in the village to the main road to catch a bus to the centre which is an hour away.

The bus conductors and passengers have to lift her up onto the bus and set her down when she has to get off. During the monsoon, she has to stay at home as she cannot negotiate the muddy road. Earlier, when Kumbaya requested her father and brother to come to the centre to collect work for her to do at home, they refused. So the organisation started delivering work to her house every week so that she continues to earn.

On a certain day, by chance, they could not send work to her house.

Her father and brother arrived at the centre the next day, demanding work for her.

The colourful clothes the women of Kumbaya stitch can be bought in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Pondicherry, Mysore, Goa, Guwahati and Pune

Kumbaya has four centres in different villages where employment is available and guaranteed for almost 300 days in a year to over 80 producers. Apart from the producers who work regularly, hundreds of women who have received training at the centre can stitch from home.

Even if every woman earns Rs. 1000 per month, incomes of over Rs. 35 lakhs are created in a year.

Kumbaya is also deeply committed to differently-abled women and men, whose inability to contribute manual labour in an agricultural area like Dewas leads to their marginalisation and abandonment. In poor households, their situation becomes acute as their families are equally helpless.

Kumbaya has included differently-abled women and men as skilled producers and high earners. They specially design products that enable them to produce and earn more.

Today, Gora, and many others whom she inspired to join, are treated with respect and are not ignored, or pitied. In fact, their participation in Kumbaya transforms others, their families, passengers in the bus that they travel in everyday and their colleagues, to become mindful, considerate, gentle, and helpful.

Kumbaya hopes to have the resources to unconditionally support more people in this way.

Kumbaya makes a range of Indian and western casual wear for women and men, duvets, patchwork cushion covers, table and bed linen, curtains, wall hangings and different types of bags — shoulder bags, toilet bags, shopping bags, duffle bags, rucksacks and gift bags. Their packaging is made of newspaper stitched into a carry bag with their logo photocopied on reused paper and the goods are transported in recycled cardboard cartons.

The Kumbaya centres are managed by a team of skilled and trained local people as they believe investing in the capacities of a local cadre who have a stake in the development of the area, consolidates the growth and sustainability of Kumbaya. They have an intricate grasp of production processes as they have been producers themselves.

You can find Kumbaya on Facebook as well

Kumbaya products are sold at Kriti in Pondicherry, Maya La Boutique in Mysore, Gram Bharat and MESH in New Delhi, White Brick Wall in Goa, Home & Style in Chennai, Sasha Fair Trade in Kolkata, Saaz Paar in Guwahati, Eka Lifestyle in Bangalore and Fabrics of India in Pune.

Their products will soon be available on our sister project Habba as well.

Kumbaya has requested Rang De for a working capital loan that you can contribute towards on the Rang De website.