Patched is a social enterprise I co-founded in end of 2013 under Enactus initiative with students at MPSTME, NMIMS University India. It is currently in its third successful year.
Behind the glittering financial statistics and growth, lies the dark underbelly of the city. A sincere look at this part of our city reveals a fabric sewn with threads of cynicism and moral ambiguity. What happens when you are exploited to such an extent that your body and soul has to be separated just so that you can survive each day?
There are lakhs of women in a world of misery without means of an alternative livelihood. And worse without even a hope of finding one. The cycle of slavery robs a woman of her body, her mind, her identity, her confidence, and her hope.
Patched is an environmentally conscious social enterprise with courage and hope striving to offer an alternate means of livelihood to trafficked women in red light areas and providing a bridge for their exit.
- There remains a societal stigma about these women
- They fear being heckled every moment
- The police themselves turn a blind eye or often even in support of the brothels harass the women
- They have been repeatedly cheated, by various people and hence face trust issues
- Trapped in bondage, they have Unattended Health concerns like AIDS
- And being a sign of shame their families remain unsupportive and distant
- She has never been to school before and has negligible personal & skill development
- nor handled money before
- She has no financial stability and is also the sole breadwinner for her family
- The working conditions in red light areas are inhuman and unhygienic
- And they are forced to be dependent on drugs and alcohol
In our first year, we worked with two beneficiary groups from the 200 women of our partner organization in a red light area of Mumbai. In our second phase, we are targeting the 800+ sizeable home-based sex workers of a Dumping ground area and the 150+ bar dancers from another area. In the dumping ground area of Mumbai, exists a toxic drug culture. The young men who should be going to college, instead survive on cheap highs like glue or whitener, and demand sex from the women. The poverty in this area is so rampant, and so difficult to get out of that the women in this area are ready to take on clients for the price of a ‘vada pav’. They are from ‘BPL’ or ‘economically weaker’ sections and face a lot of resistance from home, or as stipulated by their religion to go outside and study. They live in households, with minimum access to sanitation and freedom. With constant incineration of waste, they suffer from chronic diseases that they simply cannot afford to get treated for.
Our triple E model is the foundation that Patched is built on.
Education: Our education ideology is to equip our women with basic training in Communication Skills, Tailoring, Money Management and Computers. These courses help them gain a fundamental understanding of these essential real world skills. In our Phone Buddy programme, each beneficiary talks to a proficient English speaker weekly, giving them the confidence for conversing with others. Inspired to fight all obstacles in helping the women, we have shown courage regularly visiting the area.
Entrepreneurship: They are encouraged to start up their own entrepreneurial ventures with these skills, skills they have a knack for, and mentoring provided by us. Along with the training, the women are taught how to create patchwork products re-using waste fabric from stores that are then sold to customers via sales channels like social commerce. The money saved through this endeavour is used as capital for their new venture.
Empowerment: Empowerment is one of the most important parts of our program because the battle is as psychological as it is economic. We make sure that the woman gain confidence to step out and that their offspring get a proper schooling and are away from this vapid institution. For the self-actualisation module, we have regular sessions conducted by UN Resolution’s Project Reach Foundation. This really helped the women lower their inhibitions and believe in their potential to earn money with these newly acquired skills. The women spread awareness about sexual health in their community by selling condoms. To focus further more on our education model –we created two sub projects – Capsule School and ARET.
Scalability and Sustainability:
Patched has a potential of directly impacting 45,000 women currently trapped in the red light areas of Mumbai. There are over 10 kilos of un-used fabric donated weekly to us by collaborated tailor stores. We also have a tie-up with Flipkart Snapdeal & Amazon for ‘impact shopping’. By logging on to shopforchange.today, you can effortlessly donate money to our cause while doing your regular online shopping. Since Patched is a long-term project, with our proof of concept, we aim to target newer regions by first subsuming our program into that of the Organization to make them self sufficient. With three NGOs having already integrated our model, many more NGOs are carrying out our first module, through capsule school.
Narsima Bano, Caretaker of our first partner organization can now independently induct her community members into our programme, and manage the enterprise. Patched is also supported by US Consulate Mumbai on discussions for leveraging social media and partnering for ARET education material. Through the money management training that was given by our team, one of our beneficiaries, Sapna has started her own B2C tiffin service in her chawl, thus having successfully exited the trade! She is currently supplying to over 25 households and earning 20,000rs monthly. A woman who was trafficked when she was barely 16 years old, subjected to the worst horrors known to man, has emerged from the struggle bruised, but not defeated. Her income may seem small, but it’s the first time in her life- earning money with her skill and not her body.
Thus as a team we have created an impact by empowering lives of - 42 trafficked women including 15 bar dancers through education and counselling in 3 red light areas of Mumbai. 15 women through the patchwork enterprise who have seen a 175 % increase in income, 3 women have left the trade and started their own enterprise. Through green products of Patched and Parivartan 50 kgs of fabric 16000 newspaper sheets was reused, reducing the carbon footprint by 2680 kg.
Our toil have brought joy and purpose not only to our beneficiaries, but to us as well in our lives. Beyond Balance sheets and bottom lines, the impact of effort and the hope kindled among them is immeasurable.