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Saris for good karma – and skills

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Mala Pather couldnt sew before joining the Saris for Good Karma project. Picture: Gcina Ndwalane

Mala Pather says she remembers her mother wrapping her and her four siblings up in a sari to keep them warm in winter. The family lived next to a river in a dilapidated house.

Pather says the moment she heard about Saris for Good Karma it evoked that memory.

“It was never the sari that kept us warm,” she says.

“Life was very difficult then and very dark. It was my mother’s love that kept us warm, safe and secure.”

Pather says that when she heard about the project she was at a difficult time in her life.

She had lost a child and was extremely depressed.

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One of Mala's bags. Picture: Gcina Ndwalane

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“I didn’t go out except to church. I didn’t like to socialise and I wasn’t doing anything with my life. When I heard about the project I instantly felt as though life had come full circle,” she says.

“Getting involved in the programme has given me skills, but it’s also given me a new outlook on life,” she says.

Pather is one of 11 women who are part of the Saris for Good Karma project, an initiative to help empower women by giving them life skills and a trade.

The project is the brainchild of strategic marketing and wellness expert Kanchana Moodliar, who has been in the corporate clothing sector for seven years.

Moodliar says the idea for the project came when she noticed one day that her mother had many saris that she didn’t wear.

“Essentially saris are the raw material for the project. thought it would be great if we could use them to help teach people how to sew.

“I approached the Indian consulate with the idea and they provided us with a list of about 80 items that could be made from saris. The list included things such as dresses, kaftans, cushions and curtains.

Moodliar met with community leaders in Chatsworth to help her find women who wanted to acquire a marketable skill.

Moodliar’s business partner, designer Taz Pather, played a key role mentoring the women. Other experts such as designer Haroun Hansrot also joined the project. He offered lessons in beading.

And big companies also came on board.

All the women were sponsored with machines as well as the extras necessary to start a business.

Pather began making bags, which she sold at Essenwood Road flea market.

She works from home, and transporting the products she makes is her greatest challenge, she says.

Along with the handbags, Pather makes school uniforms and now she also helps children in the area with craft projects.

Other women who have taken part in the project have been just as successful. One woman supplies aprons to a local hospital.

Moodliar says the real issue is not providing training but creating jobs.

“We would like to create or perhaps simply resurrect the home dressmaking industry in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We can offer the skills and equipment, but we need people to give the women works.”

Moodliar says Pather was one of the few women in the group who had the active support of her husband.

“Most of these women have to face battles every day of their lives that we can’t even begin to imagine.

“Sometimes little things, such as a lack of support from their husbands, can hold them back for a lifetime.

“This is their chance at a better life and we want people to recognise what stepping up and being a part of this project means to these women and the community,” she says. - The Mercury

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