A group of ladies is crowded in front of Sumitra Thamis’s (33) house in Dolakha District, as if a gathering is taking place. Sumitra is actually stitching clothes in her new tailor shop. The women gathered in the shop are looking at the different dresses designed and stitched by Sumitra.
Sumitra, has just recently started her tailoring business with 30,000 rupees (approx. £223) cash support received from ACT member Christian Aid, as part of the Nepal earthquake response project. With the money she received, Sumitra has bought a sewing machine, iron, threads, needles, scissors, along with other instruments needed for her work, and a few bundles of cloth which she is using to stitch and sell.
Sumitra is disabled, as she suffered a spinal injury when she fell in the farmland in front of her house four years ago. She went to many doctors to seek help but to no avail. She now moves around in a wheelchair. She cannot walk or feel anything below her hips. After her accident, her life totally changed. She could not move or do anything.
Slowly, Sumitra started to feel like she had no meaning in her life and no reason to live. She thought she was a burden to her family and especially her husband Dal Bahadur Thami, (35) who took care of her. When her children were at school she used to count the minutes until they returned home. She would watch TV for hours and think it must be time for the children to come back, only to find that 1 or 2 hours had passed.
Sumitra shares, ‘I was very depressed, I was very unhappy and I felt like I was worthless and a big burden to my family as I was of no use anymore.”
Sumitra realised that she had to do something. She remembered someone suggesting that she should do training to become a tailor. Because she had no money and no confidence to go out, Sumitra started to use a knife to cut her own clothes that she was wearing, making small cuts in t-shirts or saris, and started to stitch it. Slowly her interest grew and she started to sew. Seeing her growing interest her husband bought her a pair of scissors.
‘I still remember that my husband bought a pair of scissors that cost 120 rupees for me to use instead of knife to cut clothes. He always encouraged me to learn and pursue my interest.’
She then slowly started to unstitch her clothes to learn how they were stitched and practised it at home.
When the earthquake struck, in 2015, it destroyed her home. Sumitra and her husband decided that they would not return to their land but move to the market area so that she could pursue her dream of opening a tailor shop. They now have a rented land where they have built a temporary shelter. While they were thinking about how they could save money and start a business, Christian Aid identified Sumitra and her family because of their needs, as their situation was very difficult. She now has a shop and her life has changed so much.
‘I have already earned almost 3000 rupees in just two weeks, just now a lady bought a dress for her daughter for the festival,’ she says happily.
Sumitra’s life has changed so much after starting her business. People don’t just come to have their clothes stitched but they also come to meet her as she is very friendly, and they are amazed to see her at work.
Sumitra is all smiles, and her confidence is blooming. She hopes that she will be able to run a better shop and earn money to support her husband in the coming days.
‘I think I made the right decision to pursue my interest, I feel happier and that I have achieved something. Now everyone knows me here,’ she says with delight.
Dal is very glad to see his wife happy and more confident. He really loves his wife and has supported her in all her decisions so that she doesn’t feel neglected or different.
‘I just want to see her happy, isn’t she beautiful?’, he says as Sumitra shyly smiles.
It is not only Sumitra’s work, but her dedication and passion to work despite her disability that astounds people. Everyday people gather in her shop just to talk and meet with her. She has become an inspiration in her community.
‘I really want to thank Christian Aid for the support given as I had never received any support from any other organisation. If I had not got this cash I would probably have not been able to open this shop. This shop has changed my life and I am very happy and content. My children and my husband are also pleased to see me like this,’ she shares gladly with a big smile on her face.
Sumitra has gone through so much, but with her new profession life is improving. While Sumitra clearly takes joy in stitching clothes for others, she is also stitching her own wounds over the course of time. From the sad and dark moments of her life, she is now enjoying life and her new work.
By Sunjuli Singh Kunwar , Christian Aid