Meet Shylaja!

 13th Apr 2018 |  Stories about our Makers |  Fritha Mason

Shylaja at the age of 14 had to drop out of school as her 4 elder sisters were all married off with an ailing mom. The house hold had three brothers and dad. She was studing in  Jyothi School wherein she used to pay Rs. 10/- a month to learn sewing. During her pass time, the neighbouring tailor would give her jobs of hemming or buttoning and she did it all for sheer pleasure of learning the job. Eventually, she was married to Rajashekar. Poverty at home with no income lead Shylaja to start working in a neighouring garment factory.  She worked with them for near about 10 years taking breaks when she had her  two sons Vikas and Akhilesh who are now 20 and 26 years respectively. Working in the garment factory without to answer nature’s call had it’s own impact on her health. Shylaja always had a big dream for her sons and family. Her biggest challenge was that her husband never took up any job. He continues to support Shylaja in every job she takes which is a big privilege for a woman in her community. This keeps her going undeterred with any challenge. 

Shylaja’s encounter with Secret Pillow Project happened through a local non-profit organisation called BIRDS wherein. She was a leader of Women-Self Help group[1] in her community  that was named Banashankari and was told about women empowerment training through making and selling of products. The name is derived from a place called Banashankari wherein the Dept. of Women and Child Welfare is located having a temple of goddess Banashankari. The group today has about 20 members. Padma, Renuka and Shylaja attended the training in November, 2016. The women in the community were not as trained as her and Shylaja was generous to spare her time supporting her team members in making the Secret Pillows. The group persisted with bigger dreams. The income enabled Shylaja to pay her children educational needs while supporting a deposit of INR 10,000/- to hire a local shop space that she converted to a training and sewing unit. This was a long term dream for Shylaja. She was determined to own one because she was stitching blouses for a similar boutique that charged customers Rs.350/- while paid her Rs. 80/-.  She constantly upgrades her skill in sewing and currently learning to knit tussels. Members in her group such as Aruna and Shankaramma have their own story of being associated with Secret Pillow Project. Aruna had to undergo scans and medical tests which she was postponing thinking of the costs involved while finding it embarrassing to share her ailments. Through the income from sewing, she was able to do her scans and health check-up and understood she is diabetic. This enabled her to plan her diet and address concerns. She owns an enterprise of  retailing sarees and dress material for women which all needed funding. The women took photos of themselves with the products of Secret Pillow Project sharing the skilled work they are capable of doing. They approached the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare once again. They were sanctioned an amount of Rs.200,000/- as a group to have their micro-enterprise. Shankarama and Padma have been able to have a sewing machine through the project. 

When asked about their future dreams and plans, the women all shared that they wanted a better home for their family and intend to scale their income being more entrepreneurial.  They are thankful to Secret Pillow Project in making them realise their long standing dreams while giving them scope to dream bigger. 

Since Fashion Revolution was born, people everywhere are increasingly asking ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ Here at Secret Projects we invest a lot of time collaborating across the whole value chain: from the market sellers from whom we source our fabrics, all the way to our consumer. We are working for a more ethical and transparent fashion industry, and we hope to inspire positive change.

It has been incredibly exciting taking part in Fashion Revolution Week 2018, and we have loved sharing the stories of our makers with you. They inspire what we do, and we hope that they inspire you too. But let us keep the Fashion Revolution alive all year round, and always remember to ask ‘Who Made My Clothes?’

So last but by no means least in our series of Meet the Makers interviews, we would like to introduce you to Shylaja.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I am Shylaja. I have two sons and I am the sole breadwinner of the family. I trained to become a tailor and that became our sole source of income. I was used to work in the garment factory for about 10 years. But the lack of breaks and paid leave, low wages, and stringent environment made me unwell. So I had to give up the job. I started sewing in my neighbourhood and do local jobs, and that is how I came across Secret Projects.

What do you enjoy most about being a maker?

With the money I earn, I have been able to pay for my sons’ education and I am able to manage my household finances.

What impact has being a maker had on you and your family’s life?

My family has been self-sufficient and has been able to cope through tough times when we have unforeseen expenses.

How does it make you feel?

I feel happy and also liberated. I have been invited to train other women to sew, and that makes me feel really very happy.

How does it compare to other jobs you have had?

I am much healthier and have the freedom to choose my schedule for the day, and so my work fits around my family life.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

I would like to own a boutique selling different fabrics and with a space to train other women to sew. I hope that other women have the same opportunities as me.

What would you like to say to the customers at Secret Projects?

I have to say that Secret Projects has been a blessing in my life. I have been able to clear some loans that I had building up and mend my sewing machine. I have also been able to pay for health check-ups. I am much healthier now.


The 2nd AGM of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society will take place on September 21st 2022

The 2nd AGM of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society will take place on September 21st 2022

The second Annual General Meeting of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society (SPCBS) We are delighted to announce that the second AGM of SPCBS will . . . take place via Zoom on Wednesday 21st September at 1-2pm BST. The agenda for the meeting The agenda for the meeting with items to be discussed was sent via email to all Shareholders on Thursday 1st September 2022. If you did not receive the agenda, first please check your junk mail boxes and if it hasn't reached you, please email us at: The Zoom link for the meeting The Zoom link to attend the meeting will be sent to all Shareholders and representatives of Shareholders no later than Monday 19th September. The quorum It is required that a minimum of 10% (27) of Shareholders or representatives of Shareholders attend the meeting for it take place. We look forward to welcoming everyone to the meeting and if you would like to learn more about investing in SPCBS, please visit the invest page of our website at:  
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We have been named one of the top 100 Social Enterprises in the SE100 Index and Social Business Awards run by NatWest and Pioneers Post

We have been named one of the top 100 Social Enterprises in the SE100 Index and Social Business Awards run by NatWest and Pioneers Post

We have been named one of the top 100 Social Enterprises in the UK in the NatWest Bank SE100 Index and Social Business Awards. AND WE COULDN'T BE . . . PROUDER! We entered the competition earlier this year and put it to the back of our minds. We knew that we had done a good job with the application, highlighting our strengths as well as our plans for the future. However, the competition was going to be tough as there are so many brilliant Social Enterprises out there! Then the news came through that we had been named one of the top 100 UK Social Enterprises! We genuinely went into a bit of shock for a couple of minutes, wondering if what we were seeing was real! And then we screamed a little! This award means so much to us and, without wishing to sound like we are giving an Oscars acceptance speech, we wouldn't have recieved this honor without the unfailing support of our Customers, Shareholders and Friends. So, it's a well done to each and everyone of us. What is the SE100 Index and Social Business Award? The SE100 Index and Social Business Awards is run by NatWest Bank & Pioneers Post every year to name, celebrate and learn from the UK's 100 most impressive social enterprises. Learn more about this award here. What does being named one of the top 100 UK Social Enterprises in the SE100 Index and Social Business Awards mean to us? So much! It's wonderful to get a recognition that what we are doing is making an impact by such a presitgious organisation and award. To be counted in with 99 other excellent social enterprises is just wonderful and we want to give a shout out to all the top 100. It's so tough for social enteprises in this current climate and to receive this honor has really boosted our spirits, so thank you to the SE100 committee for recognising our work and to the entire Secret Projects team for working so hard our social enterprise the impactful organisation it is today.      
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Introducing our latest editorial creation - News from India

Introducing our latest editorial creation - News from India

Introducing News from India We are delighted to introduce our latest editorial creation - News from India, dropping in inboxes every 6 weeks. What's . . . it all about? News from India, begins with an update and introduction from Secret Projects India Director, Sumathi and is packed full of news about what our Makers (the name we give to the women who lovingly stitch our Ranges of Clothing and Homeware) are working on, how you can help us in our mission to empower women in India, plus lots of other information and announcements. With Heart With Heart, our long standing, monthly e-newsletter will still continue to be sen but will now mainly focus on our products, offers and new products. How to sign up to receive News from India and With Heart Please click the link here to sign up to receive both News from India and With Heart. If you already receive With Heart, you will automatically be sent News from India. Subscribing to News from India is one of the best ways to keep up with all things Secret Projects India and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as Sumathi and the team enjoy putting it together.   Photo: Sumathi's update from News from India. 
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