Sew shall you reap

Twenty five year-old Raviprakash Shrivastava passes the slums in the Ghansoli area in Navi Mumbai every day on his way to work. “The people living in these slums are mostly migrants who come to Mumbai to find work. While the men get odd jobs, the women and children tend to spend their day in the slum area,” says Shrivastava.

Migrant women in Ghansoli learn how to use the sewing machine

The migrants live without basic amenities like electricity and running water, he adds — something we take for granted. “Sometimes the women take clothes that have been donated to them to Crawford Market or Chor Bazaar and sell them. They buy utensils in exchange,” he reveals.

Saddened by the condition these migrants lived in, Shrivastava decided to help empower the community. He found that a lot of NGOs were working for the benefit of children as well as seniors, but little was being done to help women. “The women lacked both opportunity and encouragement to make a living,” he says. And that is exactly what he aimed to provide them with. About six months ago, with help from UnLtd India, Shrivastava set up a vocational training centre for these women.

Today, 30 to 35 women attend sewing classes at the centre. But Shrivastava reveals that a lot of work went into convincing the men in their families to allow them to leave their homes. “While the women were always keen to learn from us, we had to explain to the men that we were here to help. We told them that we could help teach the women to sew, so that they could earn a living too,” he says.

“A friend’s wife agreed to teach them how to sew. We have rented a room in a chawl in Ghansoli, where classes are held every day except on Sunday, between 11 am to 1 pm,” says Shrivastava, who is unable to tend to the classes himself because of his full-time job as an executive in the Corporate Social Responsibility department at Neptune.

Currently the group works on six sewing machines — three have been donated to them by the Arambh Trust. The women will undergo a four-month training session, after which they will be awarded a certificate. “They can then take up jobs or set up their own businesses after that,” says Shrivastava.
Shrivastava, who came to Mumbai six years ago from Sant Kabir Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, has been working with the underprivileged for several years. His internship at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) on their project Koshish, and his work with migrant children at NGO Saathi, has stood him in good stead.

Ask him about the future and he is full of ideas. “I want to introduce classes such as chocolate-making, soap-making and making incense sticks. I also intend to tie up with the government so I can work on a larger scale,” says Shrivastava. 

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