We finally arrived at the home of Rahima Seikh who is part of the women's self-help group called "Pratik". For today's group visit, Rajyeswar was delivering about five brand new solar lamps to the women. Each of these women were already using an older one, but the solar lamps were so efficient and convenient that many of them decided to get another one.
My main goal of the visit was to talk with Rahima Seikh about a loan she had received for a sewing machine for her and her husband's new tailoring business. She explained to me that a year ago she and her husband and elder son were strictly in the "Chikan and Zari" business, where they customized sari's and other women's clothing with colorful and elaborate embroidery work. However, recent shifts in demand and a slouching economy made Chikan work less lucrative. Business was slow for a while, and her family was stuck in a rut.
"All of a sudden, we were struggling to pay our expenses and had to rely of friends and neighbors."
Rahima's brother-in-law, who had a small space where he ran a tailoring shop, asked Rahima and her son to join his tailoring business, which was doing well. After receiving her own tailoring machine through an enterprise loan from DCBS and Milaap, she was able to start working.
"We receive bulk orders all the way from Howrah each week and we produce hundreds of lady's skirts and blouses a week."
Rahima's son explained that now, on a good week, the business is able earn about Rs. 2500. Rahima and her family are now very busy being involved in the tailoring business, and don't have to worry about making ends meet. In fact, when I met her today at the group meeting she was receiving two new solar lanterns for her business. "It is much easier and safer to operate a sewing machine at night with the help of a solar lantern, the kerosene lanterns raised the risk of ruining our work and offered no light." I was happy to see that Rahima was investing in her business and serious about increasing the efficiency of their work. Before leaving her to get back to her work, she wanted to thank the people that went out of their way to support her and her business.
Rahima stands in front of her tailoring workshop