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Helping needy walk a mile by training them in shoe making

FICCI FLO’s project Sui Dhaga gets shortlisted for sustainable dev goal award for generating employment opportunities

Helping needy walk a mile by training them in shoe making

Samrina Dhillon with girls of Panjwar Kalan village during training workshops. Tribune photo

Neha Saini

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 5

Taking a leap forward in the sustainability goals and engaging the community development through skill development, FICCI FLO’s pilot project Sui Dhaga has been shortlisted for the Sustainable Development Goals Innovation Action Awards-2021 announced by the Punjab Planning Department with the support of UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals Coordination Centre (SDGCC).

The project was conceived and implemented by team of FLO members led by Manjot Dhillon, chairperson, FICCI FLO chapter Amritsar, Sui Dhaga, undertook two initiatives for skill development, one with the women inmates of Guru Ram Dass Kusht Ashram and another with young girls from village Panjwar Kalan in Taran Tarn.

“Sui Dhaga is an attempt to engage the local and the under-developed community in skill development exercise and creating an opportunity for generating employment and income for those involved. Our team members trained and provided resources for the completion of the initiatives, while keeping the dignity of labour in mind,” said Manjot Dhillon.

The two initiatives under the Sui Dhaga were mentored by team members Geetu Khurana, Drishti Khurana, Samrina Dhillon Bajaj and Manjot Malhi.

A step in the right direction

Textile designer Samrina Dhillon Bajaj and Manjot Malhi, a teacher, took it upon themselves to train 15-20 young women from their native Panjwar Kalan village in the border district of Tarn Taran in making trendy, hand-painted footwear. Creating a range of colourfully-crafted canvas shoes using coloured dyes, Samrina and Manjot raised enough money for the women to change their lives for better.

“As a creatively-inclined person, I would say that it was a creative catharsis for all of us involved as these girls between 12-18 years of age, were mostly struggling to get an education let alone dream of a livelihood. Panjwar Kalan is my native village and my family is always closely connected with the village development activities. So, when the opportunity came to actually do something meaningful and provide skill to the women folk, we could not say no,” shared Samrina. “There are a total of 800 women in the village, and the young girls mostly have no prospects beyond getting married at a young age. With our training workshops in hand painting shoes, we educated them about creative and marketing details while creating our products,” said Samrina. With skill, comes acknowledgement and dignity of labour

The second initiative under the Sui Dhaga was led by Drishti Khurana and Geetu Khurana, who created a range of décor products in Phulkari and traditional weaves with woman inmates of the Ksuht Ashram (a shelter home for patients of leprosy). Drishti shared that their initiative served two purposes; generating employment at the local level and providing a life of dignity to one of the most neglected community. “Usually, such shelter homes depend largely on donations. But we wanted to make these people self-reliant, by training them in different weaving and stitching techniques.” Geetu, who is a designer herself, trained the inmates in traditional weaves to promote the local artisan and weaver community as well.

“We created products such as table mats, table covers, cushion covers and other décor items with zero wastage and using organically sourced raw material. Also, it was about providing them a skill set, a market to sell their products and ensure that they get financial empowerment,” said Geetu, whose family has been associated with providing aid to Kusht Ashram for the past 30 years. The proceeds from selling the products went to the inmates.

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