Santoshi sits at her new sewing machine

A Tailored Response

In many regions across India, the devastating surge in COVID-19 cases in April and May 2021 hit the poorest and most marginalized people hardest, affecting their basic livelihoods. 

In the case of Santoshi Samal, a 24-year-old tailor in the Kalahandi region of Odisha, a lockdown in that area eliminated work and hampered her job hunt. For months, she was not able to earn any income for her basic needs.

Santoshi is a landless Dalit Christian woman who gave up tailoring for agricultural work in 2018 after she got married. The marriage dissolved after her husband started demanding money and a motorbike in lieu of a dowry. 

When the situation became untenable, she filed for divorce and returned to her home village. There, her brother built her a small hut close to his home and Santoshi earned a living through casual labour, right up until the lockdown.

With no means to earn a living, and nothing on the horizon, Santoshi was in a crisis situation. In response, the Lutheran World Service India Trust, working with Canadian Lutheran World Relief, a member of the Humanitarian Coalition, came through with an unconditional cash transfer of approximately $100 CAD to tide her over. Santoshi put the funds toward a sewing machine, paying half the cost up front and the balance in monthly installments.

This was a major step toward a long-held dream of earning a meaningful living as a tailor and working from her own home, helping to provide for physical distancing through any future pandemic waves.

“I have no words to express my heartfelt gratitude,” Santoshi says. “As a deprived woman, I was struggling to run my household in these challenging times.

“I got this opportunity to buy a machine and now I’ll stand on my own feet without depending on others,” she says. “Though I have suffered during the pandemic, this very pandemic allowed me to achieve my dream.”