MASUM’s tailoring and fashion designingcourseis specifically conceived forrural young women ofPune district’s Purandar block.The courseaims to shape and transvaluetheirdomestic sewing skills into business and income-earning potential.It encourages women to become economically self-reliant by honing their craft and techniques and providing avenues for entrepreneurship.
Launched in 1990, a main objective of the course, at the time,was to create a space for girls to continue formal learning even after they had dropped out of school. The course extended the learning span of girls and protected them from forced, early, child and hasty marriages.
In its first two years, the course was funded under the Training of Rural Youth for Self-Employment (TRYSEM) scheme of the Government of India. After the scheme ended, the course has been financed by MASUM andthrough fees paid by students.
For 28 years since its inception, course classes shifted base to a new village after every two or three batches. This enabled girls from interior villages and hamlets to enroll, attend and gain from the course. Daughters-in-law who had newly relocated were urged to enroll to create their sense of belonging to the new, alien and often hostile village.
Since 2018, course classes areconducted at MASUM’s office in Saswad town of Purandar block.
Course duration: Four months
Classes are held from 10 am to 4 pm on all days except Sundays and public holidays.
Until 2008, the course used to be over six months’duration. It has since been condensed to four months.
There is no minimum educational requirement or a particular age criterion to enroll for the course. Enrollment is based on the principle that measurements and basic maths are known to all irrespective of whether formal education is acquired or not.
End-of-course examination is held of 300 marks. This comprises paper cutting (100 marks), dress making (100 marks), written test (80 marks) and design/ pattern journal (20 marks).
For students who do not have the ability to write, oral exams are conducted or assistance is provided in writing.
Fees: Rs 3000
Fees are not mandatory. The amount is waived or reduced for applicantsbelonging to Dalit, religious minority or economically marginalised groups and those at risk of early marriage.
Aside from classroom learning, study tours are arranged to wholesale cloth markets and warehouses in Pune city to familiarise students withvarious types of cloth materials and the costings involved in garment productionand designing. Thishelps them to understand the dynamics and inner workings of setting up a business.
These tours are coupled with a visit to the Novel Sewing Machine (manufacturing) Company in Pune city to develop a more extensive understanding of different kinds of sewing machines. Many of MASUM’s students have bought machines and spare parts from the Company at wholesale prices.
A career guidance workshop is organised every year for batchesconcluded that year. Experts from the field are invited to present and acquaint students with various employment/ self-employment options.
The certificate given to students at the end of course is accepted by local self-government bodies for availing their livelihood schemes. Many students have received subsidised picofall sewing machines under these schemes and started small-scale, home-based ventures.
Besides the above core course content, co-curricular classes on a range of fields – cycling, self-defence, yoga, music, dance, theatre, health, law etc – are also conducted.
Rural girls are often discouraged and evenforbiddenby their familiesfrom engaging in physical outdoor activities and sports. Cycling, self-defence and yoga were, thus, introduced to negate this discrimination and facilitate a space for girls to build physical fitness. In addition, haemoglobin tests are conducted of all students to address high undernutrition among women. Information on dietary intake is provided thereafter.
Further, classes on theatre are planned to enable women to break free from inculcated diffidence and restrictive gender codes of behaviour and mobility.Performance of plays,created during the course, are organised in village squares (otherwise predominantly occupied by men) as part of a cultural farewell programme of every course batch. This buildswomen’s confidence to claim their rights and freedoms of occupying and usingpublic places at will. To further extend opportunities to students to explore newer places and experiences, daylong excursions are also arrangedfor each batch after the course ends.
Visits to the police station and court are also organised to provide hands-on knowledge of government systems and their functioning.
Almas Bagwan taught the course at MASUM from 1992 until her retirement in 2015. She has a diploma in tailoring. Before joining MASUM, she used to conduct home tuitions on her personal sewing machine for children in her neighbourhood. She was the backbone of the course who went beyond her teaching mandate to support, counsel as well as provide shelter in her home to students surviving domestic abuse.
Suraiya Mulani has a diploma in education and is the sole faculty of the course at present. She has been working with MASUM and teaching the course since 1992. Until a few years ago, she also, parallelly, ran a home-based tailoring business. Unrelenting in her dedication to the course since its nascent stages, she is most loved by students and is more a mother, friend and confidante of theirs than a teacher or course