There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise. Fair sex in the Old City of Hyderabad is living up to this adage. They are turning a new leaf by becoming bread earners. Though not fully empowered, they can boast of economic independence to some extent. In scores of homes, women are the ones supplementing to the family kitty and keeping the wolf away.
After slogging for eight hours when she returns to her house in Kalapathar, Farhana is suffused with a feeling of happiness. She can now afford a decent meal and help her younger siblings attend school. After the death of her father, the responsibility of meeting the household expenses has devolved on her shoulders.
The Rozgar scheme run by Khak-e-Taiba Trust (KTT) in Misrigunj and Vattepally has proved to be a game-changer. It has opened avenues of earning for Muslim women who were otherwise languishing in homes. Nearly 300 women and girls have found gainful employment sewing men's and women's wear for top brands. The production centres are a beehive of activity with formal and casual shirts in different stages of being stitched. The work is divided into various components, and each operation is handled by one woman. Working on industrial sewing machines, the women churn out nearly 2000 shirts everyday earning Rs. 8000 to Rs. 10,000 per month.
With custom clothing being the hottest fashion trend, the KTT Rozgar centres have acquired sophisticated sewing machines and fashion designers to meet the demand. Some women are seen engaged in making only collars; some make cuffs and others pockets, sleeves, front and back sections. And a few women are busy assembling the whole stuff. "I iron nearly 200 shirts and enjoy the work", says Afreen. Her sister, Zareen, has specialised in making buttonholes.
The most important thing is that while acquiring skills, many women have developed the habit of thrift and are able to save a part of their earnings. Now they don't have to depend on their parents or spouses for their needs. "I have enough money of my own to marry", says a proud Afreen, something girls from poor families couldn't think of in this part of the city.
The KTT, which takes its name from Madinah in Saudi Arabia, was set up by Hyderabad based NRIs in 1991 for the emancipation of the underprivileged in the community through secular and vocational education and employable skills training. "Most of the women employed here are either widows or those deserted by spouses. They are now able to make a decent living", says Sadiq Ali, Project Director, Rozgar Centre. Interestingly, some women have their kids studying at the same place. While they earn a livelihood, their children pick up the three R's.
Total empowerment may still elude them, but many women in the old city seem determined to rewrite their destiny.