Ahead of I-Day, Kudumbashree members in Kerala sew 50,000 national flags
The flags are made as part of the Union Government’s Har Ghar Tiranga campaign, aimed at inspiring national integration.
As the country prepares to celebrate its 75th Independence Day, 700 sewing units under Kudumbashree in Kerala are on overdrive, working to complete the 50 lakh national flags that will be hoisted in homes and institutions across the state . In Peringazha, Kalamassery district of Ernakulam, Crystal Carry Bags, a sewing unit under Kudumbashree whose main business was bag manufacturing, was busy fulfilling orders it had received before the deadline of 11 august. Eight members were busy measuring, cutting and sewing the flags with precision, under the direction of Bindu, the unit president, and Jubina CP, the secretary.
Operating on the first floor of Jubina’s house, the year-long unit has five sewing machines and two fabric cutting machines. Besides the eight women who work from here, the unit also has other members who work from home. “Previously, everyone worked from home. But I found that the products lacked the desired perfection. That’s when we decided to take out a loan and start this unit,” says Jubina, who is also secretary of the Kudumbashree District Sewing Consortium.
In Ernakulam district, national flags are sewn under the coordination of the Consortium. Established in 2020, the Consortium’s flag-making works involve 235 women across its 55 units. They receive orders from schools, governmental and semi-governmental institutions and local authorities. Ajith PA, District Program Manager, said two lakh flags were to be distributed in Ernakulam. “Flag orders for 1.6 lakh were received on August 8,” he said. The fabric for the flags comes from Surat in Gujarat and Erode in Tamil Nadu. Following the recent change in the flag code of India, a polyester blend fabric is used to sew the flags. The initiative is part of the Union government’s Har Ghar Tiranga campaign, aimed at inspiring national integration.
The women of Crystal say it gives them immense pride to be part of the country’s historic celebration through their work. Haseena Sherif (38), a Kudumbashree member for 12 years and engaged in tailoring for two years, said it was the first time she could take part in a national campaign like this.
“I am very proud and happy to have had this opportunity to make the flags,” she said. Her colleague Jameela Firoz (40) also expressed her pleasure in being part of the campaign. “Women like us are often asked what we have done for society and the country, our contributions are always looked down upon. Now I can say mine were among the thousands of flags that were raised across the country for Independence Day,” she said, beaming. Unlike most of her colleagues, Jameela Firoz has never had any sewing training.
Crystal’s wives credit their secretary Jubina with all of their winnings. A two-year-old graduate, Jubina says she always believed in being self-sufficient and didn’t like depending on others for her financial needs. She is well aware that financial independence is the first step towards empowerment. That’s why she started her own sewing business at home in 2018. In 2019, CDS Kalamassery East trained women to sew cloth bags. Jubina, Bindhu and a few others from Peringazha attended the training and started sewing cloth bags from their homes in December 2019.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, women took to making cloth face masks. Meanwhile, women who were not members of Kudumbashree were also included in the works. “The confinement has affected the sources of income of several households. The mask sales helped many of them through difficult times,” Jubina recalls. The Kudumbashree had also organized training to sew masks under NIFT at the Nellikuzhi Clothing Unit for one or two members from each bloc. Jubina attended Peringazha’s training. The Tailoring Consortium was established by the Ernakulam District Mission at that time.
Later, when the Kerala government launched the distribution of ration kits through the PDS, women were tasked with sewing cloth bags. “Since then, we have continuously received orders for fabric bags. There was no period when we didn’t have work,” she adds. The difficulty of transporting the materials and collecting the products in the homes and a lack of perfection in the work pushed me to think of setting up a single unit. This is how Crystal was created in its current form. A loan of Rs 3.5 lakh was taken from the Kalamassery Municipality plan fund for the same,” she explains.
The unit initially operated from a rented room, but in an effort to reduce monthly rent expenses, they later moved to Jubina’s home. Orders for masks and cloth bags are what have kept the unit together, she admits.
Media coverage of the unit’s work helped bring more women into its fold. Many of them are able to make a substantial contribution to their family’s income through sewing. For Jameela Firoz, Crystal’s income is now what sustains her family. “My husband cuts fish at a local outlet. The recent ban on trawling and the ensuing rough seas have led to dull business. It was my income that helped pay the rent and support my children last month,” she says.
Pennamma KK (60) lost her husband to tuberculosis four months ago. He was chronically ill for a long time. Pennamma is a retiree in a cooperative bank. It was her income that sustained the family throughout. Since his monthly pension is barely enough to pay off their home loan, Pennamma joined Kudumbashree after his retirement.
Rahima Siyad (36), a resident of HMT Colony, also acknowledged the positive contribution of her income. “I joined Kudumbashree a year and a half ago when I saw the empowerment the women around me have gained from it. Being able to support my children with my hard-earned money is extremely rewarding,” says- she.
Another member Jaseela Ashraf (32) agrees with Rahima. Sewing has always been her favorite occupation. Even before joining Crystal a year ago, she was making dresses for her family and friends. “When I moved to Peringazha from my native Malappuram not long ago, it was not possible for me to start my own business anytime soon. So, I joined the women in my neighborhood and I started working with Kudumbashree. Being financially independent earns me the respect of my family and my opinions and suggestions are valued,” she says.