Gomtipur, in Ahmedabad, is home to 43,000 landless slum dwellers. When the mills (the main source of employment in Ahmedabad) closed in the 1980's, many men lost their jobs and the women became the sole source of support for their families.
Concerned with the well being of the women, a couple of nuns formed the St Mary's embroidery centre that provides secure, fairly paid, home-based employment, and helps them gain their rightful place in society. Today around 500 women take part in the embroidery program, now recognised as a Diploma course by the Indian government.
The women specialise in delicate mirror work embroidery, a skill that dates back over 1,000 years. All profits from sales are distributed to the artisans and controlled by a managing committee made up by women of the project. Recently St Mary's set up its own bank to assist women to set up a personal saving plan and offer school scholarships for their children. St Mary's also runs a hospital with 40 hospital beds and a clinic that caters for 110 patients a day.
Manjula is 33-years-old and has worked at St. Mary's for five years. Manjula says: St. Mary's has changed my life for the better. It has become my only source of income. There have been lot of changes in my life, which have brought happiness, peace and unity in my family. Working at St. Mary's helps me in educating my children, to buy the necessary things in the house. It has created in me a kind of freedom; it has given a feeling of independence. If I was not working in St. Mary's, I can't imagine what kind of life I would live today.