Weaving Better Futures for Rural Women through Pinthread: Sameera Jalan
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Pinthread started as a school project. As part of my curriculum, I had to complete a social work project, but I had no idea what to do. One day, I was talking to a friend not much older than me, but who was a mother, and her husband had left her. She did not have financial support and was inclined to grovel back to her husband. She told me that two of her cousins had similar stories. I talked to my parents, and we agreed that there was no way they could go back to their abusive husbands. So, we decided to give them two rooms in our home while we thought of what to do next.
I knew that they must have financial independence to be able to stand on their own feet, but they thought of themselves as housewives. Unfortunately, women’s great domestic contributions are never recognized as “work”. However, I soon noticed that some of their home skills could be expanded on to give them income. One of them was stitching.
I personally did not even know how to thread a needle, but they were quite practiced at this art. But, in order to make something that people would buy, we all needed to learn more. To develop quality and a knowledge base for the women working with me, we called upon a tailor who taught the women different stitching styles every week, and that’s how Pinthread started. It was a project required for my curriculum that I continued building on and expanding.
I started off with an initial donation that I then maximized. At the heart of the success behind my project is sustainability and a love for protecting animals. I strongly believe in sustainability. The fashion industry is all about fast and trendy fashion—the enemy of sustainability. We are inclined to buy in-clothes to fit in, and we waste tons of perfectly usable clothes. Cloth also gets wasted and discarded while making fashionable items. Keeping the motto of sustainability and cost-effectiveness in mind, I obtained spare, unused, clean scraps of cloth to upcycle. PinThread started in those two rooms of my house, working for hours to turn those discarded scraps into something beautiful.
Initially the women working with Pinthread didn’t understand the concept of knowledge-building and learning skills without a monetary incentive. They felt affronted believing we were working with discarded cloth. Since I’d started Pinthread as a passion project, their opposition overwhelmed me with self-doubt. But slowly I understood the financial positions they were in and started giving them the token money that they deserved for their time. This project has aided me with important entrepreneurial learnings such as listening, being mutually respectful, and keeping an open mind. Slowly, as our work began to earn appreciation and sales through our Instagram page, the women started feeling more confident and prouder of what they were doing.
Though my school project is completed and successful, I have decided to continue Pinthread. I want to help and employ more women in Gorakhpur, and through this expansion also learn about the prevalent cultures in different regions. We have started getting bigger orders for our products, and sometimes it gets overwhelming. The women I’m working with have inspired me tremendously in the way they budget their expenses and live every day. Throughout the project, my parents have been incredibly supportive and help me with it alongside my school studies. I’ve also had incredible motivation from my friends and my loving dogs, whom I turn to when I feel low.
I’m glad I got the opportunity to conduct this project and was able to advance it despite the challenges of the pandemic. It helped emphasize the importance of having practical learning along with theoretical learning. Unless you know the needs and challenges of people around you, school learning cannot be implemented in the real world. In fact, the lockdown turned out to be a learning opportunity in disguise since it also helped set up and boost Pinthread on the online platform.
What I would like to say to all other youth like me is, if you have a passion for something, go ahead and try it. You will fail, and the road is full of bumps, but eventually, you will reach where you want to, and it will be all worth it.