Vijayawada

Transforming used saris into colourful cloth bags

J. Rama explaining her social enterprise 'Health Engineer' bags, in Visakhapatnam on Monday.   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

Soft skills trainer J. Rama has been giving a new lease of life to used saris and dupattas from the past four years by turning them into colourful cloth bags. With her social enterprise called ‘Health Engineer’, she plans to completely eliminate non-biodegradable polythene bags under 40 microns, bring about social awareness and empower women tailors from weaker sections.

Her journey of starting an eco-friendly enterprise gained momentum in Guntur in the year 2014 when she read an article in The Hindu about Indira Gaikwad, a differently-abled athlete from Pune and recipient of Maharashtra’s most prestigious sports honour Shiv Chhatrapati award, who was forced to sell her medals as scrap to look after her ailing mother. “That article left a deep impact on me. Being differently-abled myself (polio afflicted), I could feel the pain she was going through. I took up a project to raise funds for Ms Gaikwad by making cloth bags imprinted with the signature and palm print of the award winning athlete,” said Ms. Rama, who was working in a college in Guntur then. She managed to raise an amount of ₹2 lakh and handed it over to the Ms. Gaikwad in Pune. Ms. Rama’s dream project ‘Health Engineer’ has come a long way since then. She has so far made 90,000 cloth bags with donated used sarees and dupattas. Presently based in Anakapalle, her social project provides financially support to six women tailors in Guntur and two in Anakapalle. Though the production cost of each bag is ₹7, she sells them for ₹5 each. “I bear the extra ₹2 cost as my contribution towards the environment,” she adds.

Three principles

As a social enterprise, Ms. Rama adheres strongly to the three principles she believes in. “I started ‘Health Engineer’ with my sheer desire to give back something back to the society as a responsible citizen.

Hence, I pledged to never buy materials to make cloth bags, but to only use donated cloth. My second principle is to never give away any bag for free because then it would have no value. And finally, I want to use this as a platform to empower women,” said the 53-year-old. From pattu sarees, chiffons and cottons to material from premium brands like Raymond, the donors come from a cross section of society, be it housewives, wholesale cloth merchants or branded cloth showroom owners.

Sanitary pads

During the Krishna Pushkaram in 2016, she bagged an order to make 20,000 cloth bags from Swarna Bharat Trust. Back in Vijayawada, educational institutes like KBN College have become a part of ‘Health Engineers’ by taking 6,000 cloth bags and declaring their campus ‘no-plastic’ zone.

Incidentally, after making thousands of cloth bags from used sarees, Ms. Rama was left with 25,000 saree falls. She and her team of women tailors worked for two months to use the saree falls these to make 90 sets of sanitary pads and donated it to differently-abled students from weaker sections. Over the years, ‘Health Engineer’ has supplied cloth bags to Hyderabad, Bhimavaram, Mumbai, Pune, Kakinada and Visakhapatnam. “We have also uploaded a tutorial on how to make a cloth bag on YouTube to guide others to make this shift from polythene bags to cloth ones,” added Ms. Rama.


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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 4:31:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/transforming-used-saris-into-colourful-cloth-bags/article23297063.ece

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