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Quake shattered her life, she stitched it back

Tailoring course in progress

The ladies of Sarai can be seen in new outfits these days – a novelty for a village that’s never had its own tailor before.

But for the first time ever, the people of the Kashmiri village don’t have to travel to the nearest town to get their new clothes made because now they have Naseera.

Naseera Bano is 20 years old and she grew up in Sarai but just five years ago, she couldn’t have imagined the kind of financial security she now has with her tailoring monopoly.

In 2005, Naseera and her family lost their home in the great earthquake that destroyed dozens of villages in Kashmir.  All of Sarai and 17 other villages in the district of Uri on the Indian side of Kashmir disappeared when the mountains literally collapsed on them, but the greatest casualties were suffered in Azad Kashmir on the Pakistani side of the border, with more than 80,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

After the earthquake, Naseera, her mother and four young siblings spent two years in a temporary camp living off uncertain charity.  But their lives changed with a housing and micro credit scheme introduced by the Aga Khan Foundation.

Jalil Lone, on behalf of the AKDN, distributed funds to build 300 quake resistant houses in the area as well as three schools and a health centre.  And once people were settled in their new solid homes, they were ready to think about the future.

“We gave them each a sewing machine, and provided them with needles, thread, scissors and cloth. They were given a basic tailoring course with the help of a local trainer in Uri.”

Naseera jumped at the chance to help out her mother who’d been the family’s sole bread earner for years.  She was one of the first batch of 15 girls to be trained and is now perhaps the group’s greatest success story, according to Lone.

“There were many girls who trained along with her. Some of them got married and didn’t make use of the training they got. But Naseera held on. She didn’t have the money to start her own shop. So she runs her business from home. Initially she had very few customers but today she stitches clothes for all the 30 households in her village.”

And Naseera herself recognizes how far she’s come from the timid unschooled girl who started the course.

“It has helped me to know about my village, its problems and the challenges of life. I never used to speak in public, not even in school. Now I can speak in front of an audience”.

Photo by Jalil Lone

9 Comments on “Quake shattered her life, she stitched it back”

    on May 4th, 2010 at 5:32 pm


  2. #2 Hema B.Rajashekar
    on May 4th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Interesting story! Economic freedom is the first step towards all other kinds of freedom.

  3. #3 Sonal Joshi
    on May 5th, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Hi Keerthana..u have done a very off beat & interesting story. Real freedom for women comes only when they become financially independent. Gud one.

  4. #4 jalil lone
    on May 5th, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Hi keertaana…Nice Dig out,will try for Dardpora as well.Good work

  5. #5 nazia
    on May 5th, 2010 at 9:21 am

    it really brings ultimate satisfaction to knw when women from the area where life is tough and full of challenges grow economically independant and become capable of making self decision. Girls at certain age skip the schools because either their parents can’t afford their further studies or they want them to look after domestic work .naseera seems to overcome all the social stigmas.great work by AKDN team

    on May 5th, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Hi Keerthana.
    A well authored content with a moral.

    Bravo Nassera! Having travelled extensively in Kashmir I could well imagine her plight. Amazing self belief.Yes!
    Where there is a will there is a way!

  7. #7 Amit
    on May 6th, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Nice one Keerthana ..
    This story shows how important it is to grab that one chance .. that may change ur life completely .. more people should read this ..

  8. #8 Hamid
    on May 7th, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Inspiring story. Its good to know the great work done by Aga Khan foundation and the success story of Naseera Bano. More than the earth quakes, the separation movement has shattered the lives of the people more in this beautiful region and this story will inspire more men and women to come out of their miseries by themselves rather than to wait for the government schemes to do some thing for their living.

  9. #9 David Berridge
    on May 10th, 2010 at 12:35 am

    This is truly a success story of when micro credit is planned for and used intelligently. The right business and model were competently utilized to meet real needs with real client demands. The system does work even in a post-crisis mode. More micro-credit institutions should follow such an example.

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