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Picking up fabric waste from boutiques, supplying them to poor women at her shop to stitch brand new clothes, bags, and then selling the products at her store, that's how 16-year-old social entrepreneur Sameera Jalan's schedule on any regular day looks like.
The two factors that triggered Jalan to become a change maker were the domestic abuse of women in her neighbourhood and the fabric waste generated by the garment industry.
Based out in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, Sameera Jalan was always an ardent supporter of sustainability. When she visited boutiques and shops in her locality, she observed a massive pile of waste garments.
In July 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak, domestic violence cases against women increased as people were still locked inside their homes. Jalan was distressed when she saw a man abuse his wife in her neighbourhood.
After thinking about the whole situation, she thought came up with 'PinThread' with two objectives; to empower women and create a sustainable business.
Jalan decided that she would upcycle waste garments into brand new products with the help of women who were looking for employment opportunities.
Jalan interacted with the women in her locality who were searching for jobs. She found out that many of them were good at sewing and stitching. However, they needed some basic training to hone the skills. With the help of a tailor, Sameera imparted training to these women to make finished products. Once the women received some guidance, they started experimenting with new designs. Jalan was surprised by the designs and ideas the women came up with without any formal training.
"After I had collected waste garments from boutiques, small shops, etc., I was not sure of how could I make it into useful products that could be sold online. Many of the women whom I contacted knew stitching basic cloth pieces, but they hesitated to experiment with new things. After receiving training in stitching, sewing, designing, they started coming with new ideas and became better at their work. Later, they started to search for different patterns and sewed them on the fabrics we collected," Jalan told The Logical Indian.
She first approached her family and friends for supporting her initiative. She was overwhelmed with the response she received just after starting the business. Jalan started her organisation with ₹10,000 that she collected via crowdfunding. Most of the women employed in her organisation were free after finishing their daily chores and wanted to utilise their extra time. They were keen on doing something through which they could support their families and become independent financially. At PinThread, the women spend just two hours daily and earn at least ₹900 a month.
"By employing these women, I am not just providing them with an opportunity to earn their daily living but also helping them to hone their stitching skills. At a later stage, if they want to start their own shop or tailoring business, then they would just require stitching machines and garments. These skills would be with them for life, and they could find opportunities in other packaging or stitching factories as well. Moreover, many of them who previously had no source of income, or needed financial support, are now able to improve their situation by working just two hours a day," Jalan said.
After she started selling the products manufactured at PinThread online, she received multiple orders from various parts of the country. The demand for the products grew after she began a social media page about her organisation. Jalan said that many customers get attracted to the designs they post on social media and place their order once they are convinced that the finished product is of good quality. She also plans to make customised products once the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed for businesses.
"Due to the lockdown, our plans for expanding the business got delayed, and we were not able to deliver to many cities. At PinThread, we ensure that all those who are working follow the COVID-19 related protocols to ensure their safety. After activating our social media profiles, we are receiving many orders. The response we are receiving is unexpected. At times it isn't easy to manage my studies and keep the work going. However, I try my best to balance both areas. I am thankful to my parents and friends for supporting me always. Any small impact that I see in these women's lives makes me feel content about the work I am doing," Jalan shared while talking about her journey.
She admits that in small towns, women are still expected to dedicate most of their time performing daily household activities. She feels that she is breaking the gendered notions in some way by providing them with employment opportunities.
Jalan plans to open similar units in other cities and gradually expand her organisation in the upcoming months. She wants to empower more women through her organisation and manufacture products that would allow upcycling waste garments. Sameera also wants to encourage people to make sustainable fashion choices and not buy clothes just for the sake of fashion. She plans to connect with more factories, fashion houses that would donate waste fabric for upcycling.
If you're interested in supporting her idea, you can find her here.
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