For the widows of Vrindavan, this Women's Day brings an unlikely source of joy. They now have the opportunity to contribute to the world of fashion and the apparels made by them will be marketed across the globe.
The widows, who live in the ashrams of Vrindavan, will be trained by New-York based fashion designer Kopal to design and prepare (hand-made) outfits for high-end customers in the US and Australia.
The apparels prepared by the widows will be mostly western wear based on the designs developed by Ms. Kopal, who on Friday launched the skill training programme for the widows at the Meera Sahabhagini Ashram in Vrindavan.
The programme was facilitated by social service organization Sulabh International, which aims to "empower these women to learn different skills." Project coordinator Vinita Verma said their focus initially would be on 25 women, handpicked on the basis of their experience in stitching and tailoring work. "It will be easier to train these women first in western standards of clothing. Initially, we will ask them to make simple things such as scarves, bags and accessories, and from there depending on their caliber we will progress to designer sarees and other outfit," she told The Hindu.
The income generated by the sale of these outfits will be distributed among the widows.
Shulabh, known for promoting the concept of low-cost sanitation and taking initiatives to improve the life of these widows in Vrindavan, already pays them Rs. 2,000 each for sustenance.
The widows expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of producing western outfit for women.
"It's a new experience for us, but it'll give us immense satisfaction to design a dress that will be worn by western women," said Manu Ghosh (80). The average age of the widows who will be involved in the cloth designing is around 65 years.
Ms. Kopal a product of New york 's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), began her career at Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta and has worked for labels like Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole and Converse.
But she says she was inspired to work for the Vrindavan widows by her previous interactions with local artisans during her visits to South America and North Africa. "I have always been attracted" to a life that is "rural, simpler and artisan" she said adding that her "sustainable cloth designing" was modelled on her lifestyle.