When the Covid-19 pandemic shut down schools and colleges in March 2020, most urban teens turned to making fancy cooking recipe spools or investing in home DIY projects to kill time.
Not Sameera Jalan, 16. The teenager from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh has been busy thinking of ways to help other women. It all started when she noticed her domestic helper, who was living with an abusive partner, was struggling to make ends meet during the lockdown. “He didn’t work and demanded all the money his wife earned. He also beat her regularly,” Jalan recalled. sweepers, shopkeepers, vegetable sellers – also faced similar problems.If it wasn’t a husband, it was an abusive partner or even a son.
“I realized that these women had nowhere to turn and no economic safety net to fall back on. On top of that, they silently bore the brunt of domestic violence through a medical emergency. I had to do something,” she said Outlook.
This is how “PinThread” took off, as an NGO that provided dozens of women in Gorakhpur with gainful employment at a time when corporations, governments and even their own families turned against them. . It had started as a concept for a school project.
The idea was simple and profitable: collect used rags and clothes and recycle them to create sustainable products for sale online. The raw material was donated and the women worked on a voluntary basis. And she used Instagram to bridge the gap between producers and consumers.
“People liked the eco-friendly products and the stories of the women who made them and wanted to contribute. Once the money started flowing in, women started to trust me and in turn trust themselves,” says Jalan.
Now 18, Jalan says simply wanting to do social good is not enough. Diligence and research are also key to overcoming obstacles.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to widespread job losses and an increase in cases of domestic violence against women across India. In Uttar Pradesh, the government had to launch an emergency helpline as well as a slogan “Suppress corona, not your voice” against domestic violence.
Jalan, however, believes that patriarchal attitudes that deprive women of education, agency and independence can only be broken by involving women themselves in decision-making processes that affect them.
“Once the women who worked with us started making money, they stopped putting up with their husband’s misbehavior and found a safe space among other women to discuss their issues. It’s not just a question of money, they have also found solidarity,” she adds.
Jalan is currently preparing for his Class XII exam and the PinThread project has now been on hold for quite some time. But the women associated with the initiative are now networking with boutiques and shops. The feisty student plans to resume running the organization at full throttle once her exams are over. This time as a standalone job creation model that can also work without it.
(This appeared in the print edition as “Rags to Resilience”)
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