India is a country of amazing diversity, talent and potential. The best proof of this is in our villages. There are immense opportunities to nurture this talent and create a sustainable livelihood for them.
Wasudev Mishra, Young Changemaker, solves a major problem of Poverty, Hunger and Unemployment through his Social Venture, Silaigram which has a workforce of 100 women and 4 centres across the state of Maharashtra, manufacturing Cloth Bags and other products.
Wasudev, Your background?
I grew up in a small town called Pulgaon in Maharashtra State. I completed my Higher Secondary School there and then went to the US for a Year on an Exchange program, came back to India and then shifted to Nagpur City.
My initial Interest was to become a Doctor or Biomedical Researcher, and shifted to Nagpur for my Senior Secondary School.
I am doing my Bachelors in Biotechnology from Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Nagpur
My parents still live in Pulgaon. My father is a Government Servant in the Public Health Department. A mechanic by profession, he is interested in Vehicles and Electronics. My mother is an Entrepreneur cum Housewife, Managing a small Enterprise which trains women in the areas such as Stitching, Beauty Parlour Skills etc.
Why did you choose to work on a social initiative?
After coming back from the United States from my Exchange program which was focused on developing Intercultural Relationships and Promoting Peace, I learnt the value and importance of Volunteering and Community Service.
Thus, after coming back, I started working with local NGO’s doing all kinds of Social Work. I started teaching at an underprivileged school in Nagpur. Later I realised that people in my town are suffering my hunger and poverty.
Since my mother trained the women in our area, I figured out that they were having skills to earn a living. At that time the state had recently banned Single-Use Plastics. Thus I planned to produce Cloth Bags with the help of these women, by using the sewing machines at our training Centre.
That’s where we started the Initiative called Silaigram. A place where women were provided with dignity, respect and livelihood.
We started our work with 5 Ladies initially. Today team Silaigram has a workforce of 100 ladies and 4 centres across the state of Maharashtra.
How did you feel when you just started off working on your initiative? Did you face any resistance from society/ parents/ friends/ family/ teachers?
Initially, when I started working, we did face resistance from society, for women leaving their homes.Their families didn’t want to send them to work etc. Some women also faced Domestic Violence, etc. Such social issues were there when we started.
Finance was a problem in the beginning but then later, incoming revenues started solving those problems.
What are the challenges? How do you address them?
Challenge 1: We initially had a challenge with low wages. Once we had revenues we ensured that ladies got a minimum wage which is more than the Local rates.
More about your work –
We solved a major problem of Poverty, Hunger and Unemployment in the area.
Basic Stitching and Fashion Designing were the skills which are needed. We were already running a training Centre, thus we provided the training and livelihood right there.
Our day Starts around 11 in the morning after all the ladies come to our workstation after finishing their chores.
We start our work with Sorting and Cutting Fabric and other workstation chores and then we send the material for Stitching.
Till now, I have been awarded many awards, viz.
US State Department 100+ Hours Volunteers Award,
Giving Economy Changemakers Award, etc.
Special Prize at Raman Festival of Innovation by Council of Science Museums, Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
Special Recognition by Lemon Ideas and Vidarbha Industries Association, Nagpur.
How does your work benefit society?
We are making communities equal for women to increase their self confidence and create a value chain of such clusters to create more employment in Rural India.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
I started my work after seeing a lady being hungry for 5 days. That was the turning point where we started working for this initiative and set goals to provide sustainable solutions for Poverty and Hunger.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
I would advise students to, ‘Go Local’! If you really want to understand the Structural Conflicts that we are facing in this country, we need to work at the grassroots level. In that way we will be able to design better and sustainable solutions.
We are planning to scale up this initiative on a State Level by Opening Such Centres throughout the State.