Everything is good – Sunita’s story
Failing her 10th Standard exams at schools showed that Sunita wasn’t excelling at academic subjects – but thanks to the teaching skills at St Mary’s, she is now in full-time employment.
After leaving school Sunita spent two years studying tailoring and fashion design at St Mary’s, then joined the organisation to work in the tailoring unit. Now aged 24, she has been part of the team, sewing products for organisations like Traidcraft, for four years.
Although she thought about studying on a beauty course, Sunita says it was her decision to go to St Mary’s. Ask her what she likes best and she pauses before saying: “Everything is good! Like a family, we work together in a group.”
Sunita is the third in a family of two boys and two girls. She lives with her mother and father, just a five-minute walk from St Mary’s.
And what does she do on her days off? “Sleeping!” she laughs, adding that she also helps her mother with cooking, washing clothes and housework.
“I have money in the bank here,” she says, “and the rest I give to my father.”
Like all the tailors, Sunita signs the labels of the garments she works on in pencil, as part of St Mary’s quality control. So if you buy a St Mary’s product from Traidcraft with Suni written on the label, you will know she is one of the women who has helped to make it.
Working together in harmony – the story of St Mary’s
In 1954, a group of Dominican nuns from Spain arrived in Ahmedabad, India, to start a hospital. The sisters found great poverty, and homes without sanitation, poor hygiene and low life skills. Ahmedabad was an industrial city and famous for its textiles, with 17 mills in the 1950s. However, in the 1980s, most of the mills began to close and many men lost their jobs, with women becoming the sole earners.
In 1969/70, Sister Lucia, who had enjoyed embroidery as a child in Spain, completed at Ahmedabad and began running classes, for women and children. Trainees had to buy their own thread to ensure their commitment!
Production began, leading to the sewing and embroidery centre, where women use traditional skills to make handicrafts.
Today there are 400 women embroidering in their homes and 50 working at St Mary’s, which is a pioneering example of Muslims, Hindus and Christians working together in harmony.
St Mary’s is based in Gomtipur, a very poor part of the city, in an area with a history of religious tension. Riots in 1969, 1992 and 2002 plus the burning of homes have personally affected not just the women working for St Mary’s but also the community. In 2002, some 6000 people found shelter in the compound.