Case Studies



AHMEDABAD - 380 016


Since 1993, Krishnaben (18) had been working in SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association) as a leader. Her duties included getting a hand-cart licence for the casual workers from The Municipal Corporation; taking the members to meetings and trainings; teaching them to save; helping them to access loans; getting confiscated hand-carts released from police custody; collecting subscriptions from members etc.

In the course of her duties she one day accompanied some ladies to SHARDA Trust's meeting regarding Garment Operatives Training Programme. When she got this information she was at her mother's house where poverty ruled the day. She started thinking - - - making two ends meet was indeed difficult - - - they weren't being able to afford two decent meals a day - - - medicine costs kept increasing. In such a situation if SHARDA Trust were to provide a job nearby paying her at least Rs.4000 - 5000/- (four to five thousand rupees) a month life would be more comfortable. The entire family would be able to eat well and would not be burdened by huge debts.

Her mother saw things in the same light as Krishnaben and agreed immediately to her attending the training. Her father, though, was been sceptical. He said that many organisations duped the unsuspecting public in this manner. They generally absconded with the training fee after luring people with promises of high paying jobs. Since Krishnaben was extremely insistent her father ultimately let her go.

Unlike most others of her economic strata, Krishnaben's is a nuclear family consisting of only her parents and a sister. The house has two rooms with all other basic amenities like separate bath and electricity.

Manekben (50), her mother earned Rs.20 - 30/- a day selling vegetables. Sonjibhai, her father, hadn't earned a rupee since 1990 when he was given a lay-off. Two of her married sisters live with their respective in-laws and the one married brother too lives separately. The sister who lives with them is 21 year old Shobhaben. She is illiterate and had married in Chadasna village sometime in the early 90's. Her husband' family being very poor and farm work not being to her taste she had returned to her maiden home soon after marriage. Since then she has been selling fish, eggs, fruits, etc. She earned about Rs.30/- a day from this business.

In June '98, Krishnaben borrowed Rs.1000/- from another SEWA leader to pay the first instalment of the training fees to SHARDA Trust. She was also been instrumental in enrolling 22 women and 3 men for this course.

She worked hard at individually convincing all the parents to permit their wards to join this course as most of them were rather resistant. She told everyone that the fee money would not go in vain as SHARDA Trust would surely get them jobs paying Rs.4000 - 5000/- a month. She also pointed out that a bus for commuting and free meals on the course would be provided by the Trust.

In July '98, they had underwent training at NIFT, Gandhinagar. The training though systematic had been difficult at first due to language barrier. The faculty had been concerned and co-operative but Krishnaben couldn't follow even the few ordinary English words used by the instructors.

After some time Krishnaben began to follow key English words. This and the tasty, wholesome food were the highlights of the training for this young girl. She was concientitious enough to attend classes regularly. In fact, on one occasion when she had missed the NIFT bus, she spent out of her own pocket to reach the class by public transport. It was here that she learnt how to cut and sew a shirt

The industrial visit, which was a part of the training, appealed to her a lot. There seeing the men at work she had thought, " Very soon, I'll be like them. Gradually my speed will increase and I'll be drawing a handsome salary at some factory in Ahmedabad."

After completion of the training she got herself a job at Quest Apparels through the efforts of SHARDA Trust.

Rekhaben and Kankuben, two of her classmates in the Training Programme were taken on as helpers. But Krishnaben, having received the same training, was selected as an operative.

Her timings at the factory were from 7 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Initially, for the first one month, she walked to and from the factory as she had no money for transport. Later on she started using the shuttle rickshaw for commuting. The fare was Rs.6/- per day.

As the factory was situated close to her house she had often stayed back late to complete the work, thereby increasing her earnings. The rate was Rs.12/- for every two hours of overtime. Apart from the income, the working atmosphere at the factory was to her liking; so she was most satisfied with her job.

When she had worked for three months, her mother took ill very seriously. She absented from work without information. When she returned to the factory after two days, she was handed over her dismissal letter.

She then repeatedly went to SHARDA Trust's office to request the officers there to look for another job for her. Meanwhile, she continued to work as a SEWA leader.

Thus, for a couple of months after being thrown out of the job she remained unemployed.

According to the information available from SHARDA Trust, the Trust had sent Krishnaben and 8 others for interviews in a factory. Not only did Krishnaben refused to go there, she also asked the other 8 women to refuse too. Then, in January '99, SHARDA Trust had once again got Krishnaben a job at the Simran Apparels as an operative. Working the 7 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. shift she drew Rs.40/- per day. Out of this Rs.6/- per day was spent on commuting. She was thrown out of this job too as she was once again absent without notice for two days. Krishnaben reasons that she had fallen ill this time and had been unable to inform the factory

During this period of unemployment in December'98 Krishnaben got married to Arvindbhai (22), who wasn't even a high school graduate. Employed at a roadside tea stall he brought Rs.50/- per day. He was the only earning member in a large joint family of 12 members! The family included Arvindbhai's elder brother, his wife and their three children, two younger brothers, one sister and her two children. Little wonder then that they were not able to afford even basic necessities.

Krishnaben could not adjust to life in her husband's family and, within 10 - 15 days of her marriage, returned to her parents' home. However, she would go to her in-laws house every morning and every evening to cook the two meals of the day. The rest of the day she spent at her parents' house.

SHARDA Trust came to her rescue a third time by referring her to Simran Apparels for an operator's job in March '99. The first one week she had had to spend in training under the factory seniors. Then, her career graph took off once again. She had put in just a month's service when her salary was raised from Rs.20/- to Rs.40/- per day. The timings here had been from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Here, she did not stay back late for earning overtime as the factory was in a Muslim dominated area and as the normal working day ended later in the evening. Her supervisors and colleagues being cordial with her she was satisfied with this job too.

Then her personal problems intervened. After marriage due to the increased workload and mental tension she was not keeping good health. Added to this was the long distance that she had to commute changing two busses on the way. Sometimes, she spent as much as an hour and a half waiting for a bus. The strains made her more susceptible to illnesses. As a result she was forced to take leave on and off, as also to spend large amounts on medicines. Hence, her husband and her mother asked her to quit the job.

Due to the long hours that she had to stay out of home the housework was neglected. This angered her husband even more and he kept on shouting at her. Her health, therefore, deteriorated even more. Even at the time of the interview for this case Krishnaben had been ill for the past one week and had not been able to report on duty.

About her future plans, Krishnaben says, " I enjoy sewing very much, but I can only work in a garment factory that is near my house. Otherwise I'll join my husband in his plans of having our own tea stall. If that doesn't work out I'll make a living by selling vegetables."

As Krishnaben learnt how to sew and as SHARDA Trust helped her get jobs, she feels it necessary to repay the loan instalments. She had repaid Rs.200 of her loan and has every intention of clearing the loan in a short while.