Persons with disabilities often prove to be more than the sum of their parts. 29-year-old Premalata Behera, from a tribal community of Odisha, lives with her parents and three siblings. Her father is a small marginal farmer and supports the family with his meagre income. Due to economical reasons, he could not take care of his daughter, Premlata, who suffered from a stroke of polio when she was seven. Yet she has gone on to become an exemplar for Citizen Social Responsibility, besides fending for herself and her family.
Young Premlata was soldiering on in the past, when she heard about the Jindal Stainless CSR interventions around her village Koitha in Jajpur District. She volunteered to join the tailoring classes being conducted approximately 2 km away from her village. Despite her immobility, she enrolled in the programme with a request for help for the last few steps which she had to negotiate to enter the classroom.
The class was a huge challenge for her and for the family but they encouraged her to move on. The Jindal Stainless CSR programme on tailoring was being organized for the rural poor for six months. Premalata proudly travelled each day on her wheelchair to class. After struggling for over six months, she completed her training in April 2016. She sought help to open her own tailoring shop at her village.
Jindal Stainless CSR team saw her entrepreneurial spirit and rendered all the help she needed to open her venture, which she started in her small dingy one-room house. After about six months, she was encouraged with the ‘walk-in’ orders she received. Over the next few months, she made enough capital to expand her one-room shop to a larger space, which she hired from her own resources. With the income she accrued, Premalata bought three more machines, besides the one given to her by the company.
Besides the income from her tailoring, she started a tailoring centre of her own in the same premise and charged a small fee from her students. The area started buzzing with activity. With such engagement from the other villagers, Premalata further honed her tailoring skills and expanded her business and hired three more female employees for the venture. Indirectly, she’s supporting other households through her skills.
She currently earns over Rs. 30,000 monthly and manages to save approx Rs. 20,000 after payouts toward salaries and maintenance. Today, Premalata is a proud woman, empowered and confident to make a difference in her tribal community. She is a role model in her village and has shown that the differently-abled are no less capable than anyone else.