The word “SAHARA”, which translates to support, is an initiative by PAIGAM to provide entrepreneurial/socio-economic assistance to (semi-skilled) women workers in the beautiful hills of Kalimpong and Darjeeling. The project aims to provide financial aid and employment opportunities to housewives, women running small scale businesses, single mothers, divorced women and college students.
Our aim is to develop their existing craftsmanship, and actualise it into the production of saleable handicraft products. Hand knitting is growing in popularity as a new generation discovers the pleasure of making things by hand. But hand knitting is also a powerful tool for economic change. The revenue generated from the sales is designed to help create a steady flow of income for the women artisans and also give them the financial empowerment to live life in their own terms and encourage others.
The lockdown consequential to the rise of the coronavirus pandemic has seen a substantial rise in domestic abuse and violence against women. A major contributor to this is a woman’s financial dependency on the male members of the family, which refrains her from seeking help. The main aim of SAHARA is to make these women financially self-reliant. The broad objectives include:
1. Identifying women and families who are in need of sustained financial aid.
2. Provide skill training through our experienced mentors.
3. Establish a supply and demand chain of the handicraft goods produced with the market
4. Form a support group to engage women artisans into continued financially sustainable work.
5. To provide livelihood for artisans with traditional skills so that they do not have to travel to cities for work.
6. Revival of handicraft skills and traditional techniques that are dying out due to mechanisation.
Your support to our cause might save a woman from the shackles that bind her unending potential. We request for your donation to empower the financial and social edification for the women of today and tomorrow.
Let us all play our part in making a difference in the world!
This name is the real-life version of the line ‘thirst for survival’. A visually disabled middle-aged woman who knits sweaters for newborn babies and determination to learn is an inspiration to many in her hometown in Kalimpong. At the age of 16, she began knitting sweaters for children using recycled wool. Knitting provides a creative outlet, a feeling of accomplishment and helps her cope with stress.
Devika’s husband, Dambar Bahadur Rai, who is also sight-impaired, is a handicraft teacher at Salvation Army Blind School in Kalimpong. He is well known in the community for making bamboo products like stools, bags and baskets.
Despite facing the brunt of several hardships that come with physical disability and financial difficulties, Devika and her husband have never let their disability or societal norms dictate the course of the journey they have undertaken. Devika’s goal in life is to make a living for herself and her family using her skills to knit sweaters. Her keen interest in life and her journey continue to be an inspiration for many around her.
We, at Project Sahara, respect and support people like Devika and Dambar to follow their passion and serve as an inspiration for the others.
During global COVID 19 pandemic everyone suffered but some bore the worse brunt of the crisis. Suski Thapa, ran a canteen in the Kalimpong Hospital compound along with her husband who also worked as a construction worker. After the imposition of the lockdown, without customers and unable to pay rent, Suski’s family was forced to close her canteen and her husband too lost his last means to provide for his family, due to the ban on construction work.
Suski also suffers from medical conditions like thyroid and anxiety but her indomitable will to source means to make ends meet overcame every challenge thrown her way. The repeated lockdowns have been the biggest economic hurdle for the family.
Today, Suski is determined to get back on her feet by knitting clothing items from recycled cloth and wool. We at Project Sahara commend her spirit and hope that with our effort, she achieves all her dreams.
At 21 years, Nalimit Lepcha’s laughing eyes have seen many compromises. She comes from Pemling Basti but currently resides in Kalimpong town where she is pursuing her degree in Arts from Kalimpong College. As the coronavirus pandemic worsened Nalimat was compelled to make a choice to earn a living to contribute to her family’s well being and save enough to pay her college fees.
Nalimit took up knitting as a hobby and learnt how to make bags at the age of 13. She has turned to knitting from home, the only viable option that could provide some respite in the harsh reality of everyday financial obstacles. She wants to make a livelihood with the help of a skill she has retained since she was 13.
Project Sahara wants to help young Nalimit make ends meet, sustain her family’s needs and become self-sufficient.
Skilled women senior citizens committed to empowering the future generations are the helm of our team of mentors. With years of experience, they have perfected their skills of stitching, crocheting, embroidery and knitting. They would be responsible for training our project’s beneficiaries.
Ms. Nanmit Lucksom
At 82, Ms. Lucksom has truly shown that age is just a number. She attended industrial training in the cottage industry of Kalimpong during the 1950s and 60s. This is where she picked the skills of stitching and embroidery. In her decades of experience, she has trained young mothers, army wives/homemakers and school students. Aunty Nanmit is well known for her flawless embroidery and has global clients to boast. They prefer her unique work and her passion for embroidery.
Gauri Mukhia Pradhan
Mrs. Pradhan is 78 and still holds the same passion for crochets as she did when she was a teenager. After her husband passed away, she took to living a life helping others in need. She believes that as long as one is capable one should reach out to people and lift them up. Gauri Aji (grandmother in local dialect) has always been passionate about handicrafts and spends her time either learning new designs and techniques or training those who are willing to learn from her.
Mrs. Barmit Kabo
Mrs. Kabo, 72, a retired school teacher and an epitome of kindness, is most sought for her intricate designs on sweaters for children. Knitting is her passion and she loves to share her decades of experience with women, honing their knitting skills and enabling them to emerge as young and confident mentors for many others.
Mrs Leemkit Fonning Gurung
Mrs Gurung is a brave and inspiring 71 year old cancer survivor. She is an alumna of Dr Graham’s Homes and worked as an air-hostess with the Indian Airlines.
She taught herself to crochet from magazines and books. Her house is decorated with beautiful crochet rugs and runners that she has made. She spends most of her time in gardening , crocheting and experimenting with vibrant colours.
Sharon Kabo (Founder)
Sharon has always tried to create her own path. With experience in the development sector she has been passionate about enabling people to uphold their rights and believes in uplifting the vulnerable. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University and piloted the JMC Education Programme during her college years. Sharon strongly believes in being the change she wishes to see in the world.
She started Project Sahara, after she realised that supportive markets and mediums of marketing were lacking for impoverished and marginalised women who wanted to make a livelihood out of their knitting, stitching and weaving skills.
This is what Project Sahara has set out to do – empower women from her hometown, bolster their financial independency and help their families better their standard of living. Each hand-knit product will be meticulously and personally produced – no machine intervention, no waste, no carbon foot prints. Products that project SAHARA aims to launch has a beautiful story behind it and every sale would help sustain lives behind these stories
Rachana Chettri (Local Coordinator)
We all feel the burden of responsibilities every now and then but when we hear stories about people like Rachana our problems look so minute. Rachana is a single mother who used to run a successful paying guest for girls but since the shutdown of schools, her business has taken a blow. She is the sole provider in her family of two elderly parents and a school going son. Her courage and optimism in the face of every trial and tribulations continues to encourage women in her hometown.
Easha Pradhan (Intern and Local coordinator)
Is our intern and coordinator for project Sahara. Easha has completed her higher education in Bangalore and has been an active social worker. She is the co-founder of ‘She for Community’ to raise social awareness among women of the community.
Sanobar Shamim (Graphic designer)
Third year B.Tech Computer Science student at M.S. Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences. She wants to contribute to creating a world where the word “Human” in Human Rights is more inclusive.She hails from Ranchi, Jharkhand.
Tarusi Jain (Content writer)
Student of law at O.P Jindal Global Law School. She’s interested in constitutional law, conflict studies, women’s rights, public policy and governance among other things.
Shuaib Rehman ( Social media)