Visiting the project finally felt like something has been achieved. Seeing the very smiley Shaikla as we walked in was uplifting and really showed me that we have achieved something. Exactly what we have achieved remains to be seen, but the confidence is palpable and truly visible. It seems that the first hurdle in the training process is to instill confidence and self worth. Simply experiencing the change in the confidence excites me and shows me that our vision is possible, if a little slower than we had expected! In a culture where caste plays such a pivotal role it is a fine line to tread, giving opportunity to those who have the least opportunity whilst not discouraging those who are already working hard t build on the opportunity their dharma has given them. Not just that, now fully trained in stitching bags they are officially producing our Basic Cotton Tote bags that we use for our express printed bag service here int he UK.
So what have we acheived? We started with six trainees back in July 2015, just over a year later they have compelted their training and are now stitching all of our plain 5oz C01 cotton bags. They have been paid a training fee for 12 months and back in July they moved on to a basic stitchers salary, what is interestign is that they now have the confidece to ask that they are paid as a ‘piece rate’ which is usually reserved for highly skilled stitchers who can operate very quickly. We are explorign this option with them but I mainly encouraged that they now have the self belief to be asking for this. Three of the team have now left the project, this is for a variety of reasons and to be honest i am yet to fully understand where they are now but we intend to find out as it is interesting to see what motivates soem to saty and soem to move on, possibly they have found that their new skills will allow them to find work from home where they are paid a very low ‘piece rate’.
We have now recruited 6 more trainees – the very interesting thing is that they immediately have more confidence that the original crew. I think some of this is because they have the inspiration and security of the ladies who went before them – there is certainly a nurturing atmosphere in the project building now and the new recruits are clearly looking up to the original crew.
The road getting to this point has been much longer than I expected, everything takes time – possibly even more so in India. The heat, the rains and the cultural difference all take adjusting to from a London perspective of speed and urgency!
In July 2015 we opened the building full of good intentions, a newly built empty shell where we had agreed that we would set up a project that would benefit the community surrounding our bags for life production unit. Which members of the community needed help