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Women's empowerment: US designer to groom Vrindavan widows

Posted on Mar 07 2014 | IANS

Vrindavan March 7 : New York-based designer Kopal will teach clothing design to widows staying in shelter homes run by Sulabh International and the apparel created by them will be marketed in the US and Australia.

An initiative of ocial reformer Bindeshwar Pathak, the programme aims to empower widows by enabling them to learn new skills to serve the fashion industry.

Kopal Friday launched the training programme for widows at Meera Sahabhagini Ashram in Vrindavan.

They will make outfits - mostly western wears - according to the designs created by the designer, who was aware of "the plight of thousands of widows living in Vrindavan".

"So, I instantly accepted the request from Sulabh to do something for them. I have spent several days with a group of widows from Vrindavan in Delhi and today, I am initiating a programme for them on the eve of International Women's Day," Kopal said.

"They will prepare ladies wear and fashion accessories as per my design, which will be marketed throughout world under my label," added the designer.

The women are also excited to be part of something creative and productive.

"It's a new experience for us, but it'll give us immense satisfaction to design such a dress to be worn by a western lady," said 80-year-old inmate Manu Ghosh.

Kopal, an alumnus of New York 's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), started her professional career at Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta. Later she also worked for labels like Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole and Converse.

"But I have always been attracted to rural life, simpler life, and artisan's life. I spend vacations working with local artisans, and traveling to Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Morocco. I began to develop stronger feelings and ideals about myself," she said.

Sulabh, known for promoting low-cost sanitation, started taking interest for the welfare of widows after the Supreme Court took strong exception to the manner in which the bodies of widows, who lived in government shelter homes in Vrindavan, were disposed.

It pays Rs.2, 000 every month to each widow living in five shelters in Vrindavan.

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