This International Women’s Day, we pan the lens across the Asia-Pacific region and bring you inspirational stories from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Thailand. Provided with cash grants for their small business ventures as part of ICRC’s Economic Security (EcoSec) initiatives, these women rewrote their stories into tales of confidence and strong legacy. Here is one of the features — on Ranjana from Manipur:

Ranjana lost her husband in October 2004. The grief-stricken widow was left to fend for her son and daughter all alone in the north eastern state of Manipur in India.

To help support her children, Ranjana started taking up local stitching projects. From darning a torn shirt to sewing a skirt from scratch, soon through word of mouth, friends, neigbours and acquaintances started passing on whatever work they came across. “Those were difficult times, but I knew I had to rise up to the challenge,” Ranjana recalls.

In 2015, Ranjana decided to take a loan of 10,000 Indian rupees from the Manipur state branch of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) to buy new machines. “The going was slow,” Ranjana says. “I knew I needed help to make ends meet.”

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Her dedication to her craft and her zeal to grow her business did not go unnoticed. In 2017, Ranjana received a grant of Rs 44,000 as part of the IRCS “Ashagee Mangal” (Ray of Hope) project, in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross. She was also provided with training in business skills to boost her income.

Sixteen years down the line, 40-yearold Ranjana has set up her own tailoring business and now provides employment to four other women. “Running my own tailoring shop gives me confidence,” she says. “I want to impart this same confidence to other women who are struggling.”

“Before this, I could only design and work on the items that came to me on order which made it a bit of a tricky situation financially,” she says. “I could not create items that were not on order – I could not count on them selling. Getting more machines gives me the freedom to create more independently.”

From designing to stitching, tailoring to embroidering, she does it all. Her 22-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter are also proud of their single mother’s achievements.

“Sometimes, I do get anxious thinking about what the future holds,” she says. “However, I am happy being able to teach my daughter the skills of stitching and tailoring. It’s nice to be able to pass on my knowledge to her so she can do well and not face the same difficulties I did.”