'Sewing' Hope for a Better TomorrowA deep desire to connect with and empower underserved women recently led us to southern India where we helped the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary start a small sewing cooperative and training program for five young widows and single women. Each in their 20s or 30s and living with their children in poverty, the women in our cooperative are determined to build a better life for themselves and their families.
We have paid the women their first months training salary and purchased three sewing machines, but we need your help to support this program over the next six months until the cooperative is self-sustaining. Your support will help these budding entrepreneurs and their children thrive!
Life for Widows in India
In India, a widow is the ultimate social outcast. Seen as a bad omen whose ill luck caused her husband’s death, a widow is stripped of her colorful saris, jewelry, and bindi dot. She is considered a burden to her in-laws, often kicked out of her home and left to care for her children with little or no resources. We have two goals: 1) to provide economic opportunity and empowerment to this particularly vulnerable group of women and 2) to support them as they work toward changing the perceptions of widows in Indian society.
Left: Our first night in Coimbatore, India Josephine Margaret (left) and Deepa (right) explained how they became widows in Tamil, the local language. Josephine Margaret’s husband was killed in a motorbike accident, and while it’s been five years, Josephine still tells her son he’s serving time in the Indian military. Deepa’s husband was a taxi driver and witnessed something horrific during one of his shifts that ultimately drove him mad. He committed suicide this past December. Both of them wiped their tears with the hem of their saris as they told us their stories.
Right: Christina, a spirited sewing instructor and single mother, proudly demonstrates her skills.
What We Need
We are working with Stella Baltazar, a fiercely intelligent and deeply compassionate Franciscan sister, to build this cooperative and training program from the ground up. Sr. Stella runs a support group for 200 widows and single women in Coimbatore, which is appropriately called “The Women of a New Era.” The support group helps the women restore their sense of dignity and allows them to express their emotions freely.
Our Local Partners
The sewing cooperative is located on the grounds of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary convent. A pillar of their community, the Franciscan sisters address the needs of the poor through educational institutions, health-care services, and small income-generating opportunities.
We have a great vision for this cooperative. Sr. Stella wants it to employ 100 women in five years. Our goal is that by the end of six months, the women will be able to produce clothing for the local Indian market and take on other tailoring jobs. In addition, we plan to commission the women to produce a product that we will sell in the United States.
A Shared Vision for the Future
Learn more about our journey to Coimbatore, India on our blog:
Team on This Campaign: