Thirty-one pairs of slippers in varying colors and designs stand neatly lined up against the wall just inside the entrance door of a first floor unit in Goblej Village, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India. Most have seen better days. One slightly more embellished pair stands out.

The owners of all but one pair are busy learning, and earning, in a large hall inside where they sew various kinds of garments. This is the Jivann Jyot Sewing School set up by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited (HCCBPL) in 2010 with the goal of creating an alternative source of income for women from the economically weaker sectors of society. Initially set up with 15 machines, the success almost immediately led to a request for 15 more, which were installed the next year.

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“As soon as the school was set up, everyone wanted to join,” says Manjulaben Motwani, the sarpanch (mayor) of the village who’s also in charge of the center, “so we requested Coca-Cola officials to help increase the number of machines and they acted immediately.” 

HCCBPL also covered the cost of building the center, now a hub of learning and activity.

Mobina Syed, 22, is determined to master the art of cutting and tailoring before she gets married. “I want to be an earning member of the family even after marriage,” said the feisty commerce graduate who always had a passion for fashion.

She began to learn how to trim and cut while in college. By the time she graduated, she was good enough to start teaching. Today, she earns 20 rupees per garment she cuts (she easily manages to cut six to eight per day). Additionally, she provides skills training to two groups of students.

Shahnaz Bano, 19, was forced to abandon her studies after completing the equivalent of the 7th grade because her father didn’t want her to travel the 15 km to the nearest high school. She has been learning stitching for three years now and is engaged and to be married in a year’s time. 

“By the time I get married, I will be able to set up my own sewing business at home,” she says. Shahnaz is happy to be among those to receive an opportunity to learn a skill that “will stand her in good stead her entire life.”

Manjulaben adds, “This initiative has already touched 150 families. If we have more companies like this around, it won’t take long to ensure the all the women in India are empowered to turn entrepreneurs.”