The Shadhika scholarship impacted my confidence. I know I can do things on my own now, and I can teach many people about that.
When She Leads: Savita
March 31, 2021Reading Time: 7 minutes
This interview is part of our When She Leads: Shadhika Alum collection. Learn more.
Savita is a Shadhika Alum from our partner site Vacha in Mumbai. She was interviewed by Program Officer Kendra Nicolai.
Press play to hear Savita’s introduction.
Hi Savita. Can you introduce yourself to our Shadhika readers?
My name is Savita from Mumbai. I participated with Vacha for 13 years and was a Shadhika Scholar, now alum. I am currently working with an apparel company, I’ve been there for two years as a fashion consultant working in sales. I also just launched my own brand, Project 1998, creating custom bags and planning to include clothing in the future.
What was it like to be part of the Shadhika programs at Vacha?
Firstly, I did not plan to apply for the scholarship because I had no idea about it at the start. It was my first year of three in designing courses at university. My dad wasn’t working, and it was a bit difficult financially. My family never told me I needed to leave school, but I saw it wasn’t possible to continue. We didn’t have the money. I planned I would finish my first year of the coursework, then I would stop to pick up a job, and save up to finish my courses later. One day I went to Vacha and discussed my situation with staff.
They told me about Shadhika. They said most often scholarships were awarded to girls going for degrees like commerce, banking– those kinds of fields. The Vacha staff advocated for me, they spoke to Kim (Shadhika’s then director) about the scholarship. I applied and was selected–and I was quite happy to continue my course. Those years went really smoothly, my parents were so happy! They were proud I was doing this independently. The best part of the scholarship experience with Shadhika was the 2019 Leaders for Change Summit and the graduation ceremony there – that was best part of it all.
Completing my course and being able to do a job in this field wouldn’t have been possible without the scholarship. My parents after this, till today, are more confident about me. They are proud that I didn’t give up at that time. The scholarship impacted my confidence. I know I can do things on my own now, and I can teach many people about that.
What has your life been like since college graduation?
After graduation, I got a job at a retail company. It’s a 30-minute walk from my home. When I began as a sales person, it felt great. I wanted to learn communication, products, fashion, and trends. For almost 2 years now, I have gained a lot of experience and worked very hard. I was expecting more growth, and hoped to learn visual merchandising –how to display clothes. I’ve worked extra hours in the job, but at the company they don’t give in-house promotions. I have learned they prefer people from a certain field, with that experience, but not for someone like me to level up. I have tried so hard to grow here. I have to stand throughout the day for a 9-hour shift, with pressure to meet my sales targets. I believe I have more potential and can go further than just being sales person.
My goal was to gain experience and to save up for one year. When I completed one year, I spoke to my managers and seniors about opportunities for growth. But even though I have given extra time and effort, COVID happened so they said it really isn’t possible.
What are your goals and ambitions for your future?
My goal is to open my own company, which I have actually just started. My new brand is Project 1998 – it is my birth year, which I think sounds cool also. My goal in the beginning of opening this brand is to make it women-centric. Women make the bags for me. I’ve tried to find women manufacturers but it isn’t within my budget right now but my goal in the future would be to have it run by all women.
Currently my products are online, and eventually after I save a bit more, I want to open a store. I don’t want to ask for financial help from my parents at this time. I want to work and save up to make that decision for myself. I am currently selling bags. I make the shapes, create the designs, choose the fabrics, and then source the manufacturing. I am getting a good response. I manufactured 50 bags in the first run. In 20 days, I sold 30-35 of them. Half of [those customers] are Vacha people.
My parents were a little doubtful. They said to me, “Why bags? Why would people buy from you? Why would you want to put money in that?” They were doubtful. I didn’t disclose the plan to them. I designed and planned everything without them. Now that I am selling, they are quite happy. They help me with packaging, and they are now encouraging me. My dad wants to help me open a store.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
Currently, all the people who have said to me “Why are you a sales [person]?” have pushed me a lot. There are many days I [cry]. I question myself. But people at work they push me, they encourage me.
My dad also, he has always been supportive. He doubted me at the beginning but now he is so supportive.
Sometimes, what happens when we don’t have any mentor or role model is that we don’t realize what our potential is. Guidance from a mentor or role model can be really important to help you see what your potential is and how it can bring about the best in you.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would you change and why?
One thing I would like to change is the mentality. I still come from a family where I am the only girl who has graduated from college. I have had a chance to do what I like. People in my village say to my dad, “She’s a girl, she’s 22, get her married… For how long will she sit at home?” He tackles it in his own way. He doesn’t let all those things come to me.
They think girls can’t do their own thing, can’t be independent. Where we live, it isn’t a great area. When I cut my hair short or get a tattoo, people stare, they tell my mom also, “What is she doing, good girls don’t do that. Why does she come home late from work?” It irritates me. My parents are confident in me. They see me work hard and have supported me. Before I joined Vacha, the mentality in my community and my family was difficult. I had to negotiate so much about equality – I could say I changed my parent’s mentality and they are changing it for others as well.Read more