Craft of business

Tabassum, 26, furrows her brows and conscientiously sews translucent beads on a colourful piece of cloth with deft fingers. Her innate embroidery skills will ensure that the piece, which will soon be a colourful handbag, is finished in a few hours.

However, even as Tabassum, a resident of the resettlement slums of Sundernagri, sits at the Ruaab SEWA centre located at New Ashok Nagar, she has just a faint idea that her works are ordered and sold by international brands such as Zara, Mango and Monsoon, in India and abroad.

Two years ago, SEWA, an organisation founded in 1972 in Gujarat by Ela Bhatt for poor, self-employed women, had launched Ruaab SEWA Artisans Producer Company Limited to promote business of embroidery for home-based women. The Delhi chapter operates at three locations: Sundernagari, Rajiv Nagar and New Ashok Nagar.

Here, Ruaab SEWA has identified women who make bindis, bangles and bed sheets and embroider. Embroidery skills are passed on from generation to generation. The women have made use of it by selling products such as cushions, garments and bags through a series of middlemen and suppliers, who would often take most of the capital involved as commission.

Ruaab SEWA started in-house production three months ago, allowing the women to interact directly with the sampling team of international brands. They are free to speak out their opinion in terms of design. Though latent in its activities ever since it started, the programme has finally picked up after their two-day exhibition debut at Shri Ram Kala Kendra earlier this month, with many more to come.

Tabassum is one of many women whose skills were exploited by the middlemen. Given their financial plight and inability to step out of their houses, the women would give in to their demands and inconsistent salary.

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