Stitching independence: Vyasarpadi women thrive with Aura Foundation

Free stitching classes run by the Aura Foundation set up by C Moeson helped dozens of women earn a decent, regular income.
women are making organic napkins using handmade machines.
women are making organic napkins using handmade machines.

CHENNAI: The whirring of a sewing machine isn’t a lullaby for S Sheeladevi. The intricacies of putting together apparel, and hence a livelihood, are integral part of her tailor-made life. From the hemline of poverty to a life laced with independence, the resident of Sathyamoorthy Nagar in Vyasarpadi is among several women from the locality who continue to set a yardstick for themselves.

In March, Sheeladevi was one of the 45 women enrolled in a 45-day free tailoring course conducted by the Aura Foundation. Today, Sheeladevi and scores of other women from the area hold their heads high buoyed by the Rs 300 to Rs 400 that they bring home daily.

The gates of upliftment for these women were held open by C Moeson Moses, a social activist and founder of Aura Foundation. The 33-year-old Chennaiite was earlier associated with Don Bosco India, until last year when he established Aura.

During the 2015 floods and the Michaung cyclone, Moses was engaged in distributing relief materials in areas like Minjur. As a token of gratitude, the locals offered him 10 cents of land for free for the Aura Foundation. Moses plans on setting up a library on this parcel of land and is 1,500 books closer to achieving his dream.

But a library is not what the namesake of the Biblical Hebrew prophet, teacher, and leader aspires for. “We aim to empower women, enrich their lives and extend helping hands to those who struggle to meet daily needs,” Moses tells TNIE, adding, “We primarily work in North Chennai and Minjur in Tiruvallur, where people come from economically weaker sections.”

Talking about Sathyamoorthy Nagar, Moses says, “Most people here are daily wagers like electricians, painters, and drivers, while the women lacked education and were primarily housewives. Low income jeopardised their lives, especially their kids’ education. That is when we decided to show the way for a regular income.”

Sheeladevi’s husband works as a painter. “We have two kids, who go to a government school. Even though my husband’s earnings were never enough, we never had any idea of a second income. Then, I joined the free tailoring class and took it up as a profession. Now, we get orders to stitch school uniforms, nighties and other things.”

As per Moses, women are also imparted training to make organic napkins using handmade machines. “About 45 women attended the five-hour classes daily and have made and sold around 3,000 napkins. We use organic cotton and other plant-based materials,” he said. A Sudha (38) and M Vasanthi (41) from Kennedy Nagar in Vyasarpadi are engaged in manufacturing and selling napkins. Speaking to TNIE, they mentioned their efforts to secure government loans to secure napkin-making machines. Once approved, they plan to start a production unit. Aura has also tied up with seven garment shops to secure orders.

In March, around 45 women enrolled in 45-day tailoring course conducted by Aura and sold 3,000 organic napkins made by them
In March, around 45 women enrolled in 45-day tailoring course conducted by Aura and sold 3,000 organic napkins made by them Photo | P Ravikumar

Now, however, only those women who have tailoring machines are engaged in work. The others remain idle, rued Moses. Highlighting the financial crunch that Aura Foundation is roiled in, Moses said, “Though Aura is a registered foundation, we do not seek external funds, but rely only on donations from friends and well-wishers. We had rented a building to conduct the classes that trained 45 women, but financial constraints have now forced us to vacate the place.”

Despite the organisation’s shoestring capacity to run itself, Moses refuses to slow down. A proponent of Swami Vivekananda’s words, Moses lives by the late thinker’s words: All power is within you; you can do anything and everything. Apart from training the women, Moses has also conducted 150 eye camps in schools, and was part of the Childline project in the city, having rescued eight children so far.

Envisioning a world where everyone has an opportunity to lead a healthy, educated, and dignified life, regardless of their socio-economic background, Moses marches on as the harbinger of a second chance for the downtrodden in the city. 

(Edited by Shrija Ganguly)

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