“My Organising Skills Helped Provide 200 Sisters With Work During The COVID-19 Crisis.”

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How A Newly-Confident Grassroot-Level Organiser Helped Hundreds Of Women Access Work During The First Wave Of The Pandemic. 

“I wouldn’t even have the courage to speak,” Noorbanu says, recalling her struggle to use her voice. But that changed when she participated in a three-day in organising training – held in February, 2020 - by SEWA Academy in partnership with HomeNet South Asia.

During the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis, that became a reality soon after the training, Noorbanu took charge of her community. For over 20 years, the home-based worker tailor has called the busy settlement of Vatva, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat (India), her home. For the past two years, Noorbanu has also been involved in SEWA’s organising initiatives in the area. However, it was during the pandemic that Noorbanu used her voice and skills to bring relief to her community.

Like her, many women home-based workers in the Vatva settlement are tailors. These home-based tailors create blouses for saris, kurtas and pyjamas, and other Indian apparel. Others are involved in kite-making and rakhi making. However, with the coming of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns, the workers stopped receiving orders. Their livelihoods and lives came under a cloud.

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This is when, Noorbanu along with three other organisers from her community decided to step in. Throughout the period of the lockdown, they helped over 200 women access income opportunities with mask making and making snacks. For those who were able to continue to take up tailoring work for local contractors, Noorbanu successfully led negotiations for an increase in wages. The women were only making INR 3 – 4 per piece for stitching singlets for a local manufacturer. Noorbanu saw that the price went up to INR 7 for each piece.

In the darkest days of the pandemic, Noorbanu proved to a be guiding light for hundreds in her community.

The organising training Noorbanu received was part of the HomeNet South Asia’s Comic Relief-funded initiative – Empowering Women Home-Based Workers.