Success Stories

Cushions make all the difference for women in Indian town

Making cushions has created more life opportunities for a group of women living in a small town in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state.
Each day the women gather to make velvet cushions in a house in the town of Balachak not far from the border with Pakistan. There a mother of two Reeta Devi, 44, gives guidance and inspects cushion designs.
Not so long ago, Devi spent her days between household chores and praying for her husband’s grocery shop to bring in more money for the family. Most of the women in the village were doing something similar.
“Women in our village aren’t educated or trained to do any work other than household work and raising children,” Devi told ucanews.com. “In a patriarchal world like ours, men earn, and women are considered gluttons.”
Things changed for the Hindu woman in 2016, when she joined a livelihood generation program run by Catholic Social Service Society of Jammu Srinagar Diocese for women living in frontier areas.

“I wanted to earn money so that I could somehow help my husband who was under stress by our financial situation,” she said.
Making cushions has allowed her to do that.
“I’m earning between 5,000 to 6,000 rupees a month, that’s enough to pay for a good education for my children and to buy them decent clothes to wear,” Devi said.
“I even sometimes lend money to my husband whenever he needs it, and I taunt him in case he doesn’t pay back on time,” Devi said while laughing.

Seva Niketan coordinator Madhulika Sharma, said the program Devi joined is designed to assist women like her take charge of their lives.
Sharma said that Devi was part of a team of 10 women who were taught to make cushions.
“The trainees surprised us all by their skills and by the finesse of their work,” Sharma said.
Some 12,000 rupees (US $200 then) were also provided by the church center for the women to buy the raw material needed for their venture.
Three teams were formed, and they divided up the work.
“One group is tasked with buying raw material at the cheapest possible rate. Another one is involved in stitching, and the third took up the marketing of the final product,” Sharma said.
Devi has inspired more women to become trained in cushion making.
“She has become a story of hope for all the women in the town,” Sharma said. “These are women who have been deprived only because of their gender.”
Sumita Rani, a member of Devi’s group, said that the idea that girls are a burden on the family is now subtly ending in her village.
“People have seen us earning money and this sends a very positive message across town,” Rani said. “It is a statement in itself that women too can earn a decent livelihood and help their families.”

published in UCAnews.com>>