Interviewed and written by: Sumana Vardhan
Surekha has worked at CRHP for the past fifteen years and lives in the Jamkhed area with her family. She currently is the Head Tailor of the Helping Hands Project, which works to provide fair-wage employment as well as skills-based training to women.
What were things like while you were growing up?
I grew up with three sisters and one brother, and we were all lucky enough to be well educated. My father had gone to school up to seventh standard, which was rare in those days. He owned a bicycle store, which is how he supported our schooling. I had a very happy childhood with my family.
How did you come to CRHP?
After finishing my B.A. in Tailoring at the Industrial Training Institute (ITI), I was looking for a job but was having trouble finding one. I heard by word of mouth of CRHP and came here seeking a job. Dr. Raj Arole hired me originally to teach his daughter Shobha, the current director of CRHP, different handicrafts like sewing and tailoring.
I also began teaching groups of adolescent girls from nearby villages sewing for free. We had groups of twenty girls learning and over twenty-five sewing machines running at once! Thanks to Dr. Arole, I was able to help and teach in these classes. In 2010, the Helping Hands Project began, and I have been working with that ever since.
What do you think is the hardest obstacle to overcome in getting a job?
The two major issues with obtaining a job are both corruption and caste. Corruption requires you to have connections or money in order to get a job, and many people searching for a job do not have these things. The other issue is caste, which prevents many people from working in government or management jobs. For women, it is hard to manage both housework and have a job at the same time, especially if you have a larger family.
What is your favorite part of your work at CRHP?
I really love tailoring, and I am happy that I get to tailor everyday. I also enjoy teaching others how to tailor, from young girls to women in Helping Hands who want to learn the skill.