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Meet Seema Chavan


Early life and schooling

Seema comes from a family of 5 children. Her father was the sole earner and they saw difficult days. Seema studied till the 10th grade and scored well but her family could not afford to send her to school anymore so she started learning to sew. A year later, she was married at age 16. Her husband never had an education.

Because of her academic calibre, her school principal visited one day, requesting her family to let her continue her education, suggesting she at least complete 12th grade, but her in-laws didn’t permit it. Her older co-sister was a graduate, but inadequate in the kitchen, so education seemed a liability for them. 

Marriage and domestic life

Seema settled into being a housewife, and then a mother 9 years later. Though she loved sewing, she had no choice but to work on the farm. But she followed her passion at night, making hankies, torans, etc. as gifts. 

Her husband’s work as a driver transporting vegetables took them to Mumbai for a year. Her landlady there had an unused sewing machine, so Seema fixed it and started making blouses, and learned to make several artifacts that she started selling slowly. 

Upon returning to her village and the birth of her second son, she began to feel restrained with domestic life. Financial needs grew with the family. Her husband farmed but after distributing the produce among 4 brothers, there was barely enough for food and small expenses. When jawar, a local grain is harvested, women are typically home for 4 months. She would then sell a few handmade products but “I have no fixed income” she says. “If a child has a dream, we cannot fulfill their dreams, for want of both money and guidance” – mothers are always worrying about this as several have shared with her. 

Work Life

Seema always had a strong desire to “do something”. There are enough tailors in the village for local needs. “If I want to do something, what do I do?” she questions. “There should be something more to life than just school, getting married and having children – is this all what life is all about?”

So she started looking for work. Social restrictions prevented her from working outside. 

The desire to do something not just continued to swell within her, she also began to feel the need to do something for women like her.

“I should be able to give work to another 4 women. Life isn’t just about eating, living and then going away from this world!” she exclaims. 

She now began to feel like a caged bird and asked around everywhere for work. 

Introduction to Ohrna

While waiting for a bus one day, conversing with Ashwini, she heard about Ohrna and its aim to empower women.  

Initially she was worried that her family would not permit her but then she decided to take the plunge. “It’s not that I ever want to disrespect traditions, but if I make blouses, I want to make better blouses, I want to improve my skills, I want to grow.”

Pournima at Manndeshi asked her to stay in touch, so she joined tailoring classes. Her family did get upset when she left work on the farm to come for the Ohrna workshops, but she persisted. 

Today she is glad about the opportunity. She feels Ohrna products are lovely because they are natural as well as an art. Above all, she has an identity now and is proud to belong to a group. She expects Ohrna will grow and she can train others and help them. ‘More women can earn and the art stays alive!’. After seeing the global world through Ohrna, she feels awakened. 

“In life, we may have less, but it should be satisfying.”

She believes that one should be able to do according to one’s potential and then leave this earth!