Sewing dreams of hope

He drinks and beats me, accusing me of illegitimate relationships. When I cry and decline his slurs, he beats me again and goes off to sleep. My only respite is teaching stitching. With that, all the pain and tears are forgotten. But, of course, my husband does not like that I go out and teach.

I should tell you that I was married when I was just 10 years old. My husband had polio and couldn’t make a living. We lost our eldest child as we couldn’t provide even primary health care for him.

At a time when I hardly used to smile, the Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) happened.

I found mentors and friends during the program, and it was in their company that my focus shifted from misery to helping others. I found my feet in organizing community empowerment programs for the villagers. Life was no longer just about suffering at the hands of my husband. With the stipend I got from the organization, I bought a sewing machine. The prospect of making clothes with a small needle and thread had always intrigued me. I knew the basics from my mother, but equipped with the machine, I became better.

One day, I was speaking to teenage girls in my village for one of these programs, when an idea struck me. I thought, why not teach them stitching too. This would empower them economically, and they would never have to face the same hardships that I faced. I proposed this idea to my mentors who immediately liked it.

Until today, I have taught stitching to over 250 girls and women for free in my district, Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh. Government schools provide us rooms to teach. Most girls are now making money, and it is a good feeling to see these girls financing their own education. The respect I get from them fills me with pride. It is an entirely different situation at home though, but I’m not complaining. The money I get from the organization lets me take care of my mother, run my home and send my children to school.

Stitching does not just take my mind away from the pain my husband gives, but it gives me hope for a future where girls in villages can stand on their own feet and live a life with their heads held high.

- Prabhawati Tiwari, Sewing Trainer, The Art of Living

Written by Vanditaa Kothari