What if every single thing you use made a positive impact on someone’s life? As customers, we hold the responsibility of purchasing that which helps our society or the environment in some way.
All thanks to the NGO—Myna Mahila Foundation (MMF), your pad pouches, travel pouches or handbag can help women in Govandi, Mumbai, earn a sustainable income. All at a price of no more than Rs 600.
Maria, a manager with MMF introduces us to the idea behind the organisation and how it has been instrumental in uplifting 20 women in terms of finance and social security. “The social status of these women is such that they are forbidden to work if her husband earns ‘enough’. A working woman is considered to be a matter of shame for the family. But that does not take away the credit of the home-makers. They are very skilful and trained in the art of stitching and tailoring from a young age. We, at Myna, are trying to tap into this skill so they can uplift their family income in a dignified manner,” she tells The Better India (TBI).
The thought of Myna foundation came up in 2009-10, when Suhani Jalota, then a 14-year-old, visited Govandi in Mumbai as part of her school programme. There, the teen met with the women living in impoverished conditions and got talking to them. Suhani came to understand the dynamics of these honeycomb dwellings and how women are treated there.
For one, something as natural as going to the washroom invited harassment from strangers with the toilets located far away from their houses. These women would be stared at, harassed or molested on their way. It was worse during the menstrual cycle when outdated diktats made life miserable.
This also meant that they used unhygienic sanitary products and risked their health. Suhani, who was studying to be an economist, then decided to start Myna, a foundation to help women get access to hygienic sanitary pads and help them financially too.
After a lot of groundwork and research, a young Suhani was successful in rounding up a group of women who could stitch cotton pads at home. Apart from using these reusable pads at home, Myna also sold them to help the Mumbai women earn a livelihood.
“We started with pads and gradually, partnered with a textile factory who was ready to give us their fabric waste for a subsidised cost. Our master tailor designed a travel pouch made from this fabric which was a hit among our customers. So, we started making pad pouches, handbags and travel pouches from the upcycled cloth,” Maria explains.
The bags are hand-stitched from the waste material they receive from the factory. And so, the pattern and colours are not always uniform. But the smiles that the women have every time their product is sold? Priceless.
It might be a small bag for us, for these women, it is hope for a better life.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)