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Singaravel Janarthani loves to stitch. In silence, she expresses her creativity by designing and tailoring a variety of saree blouses, shalwars and bags. At 25 years, as the elder sister of two younger brothers, today she is well known for her creativity in and around the community of Thavasikulam, Vavuniya. As a young student, Janarthani, had a strong passion for sports and dance. Despite being speech impaired, her determination to go to school, make friends, and study enabled her to complete her primary education at the Thavasikulam Vani Vidyalayam. Having learnt basic language skills at this primary school, she later joined a special school for the speech impaired where she continued her studies. Subsequently she also received vocational training in tailoring and upon completion, she began training others in the same school. 

 In 2012, she left the school and started working on her own as a seamstress. Taking tailoring orders from those in the community, Janarthani started making a living for herself and her family, and over time she started tailoring more varieties of clothes and bags. On her own, Janarthani had many customers. However, communicating to her customers by herself to better understand their orders was quite challenging. 

 Realizing this challenge and the potential Janarthani has, in 2014 Jeyachandran Gowrieshwary, a former sign-language teacher at the school, brought Janarthani and a few others together and formed a team of seamstresses. Harnessing their collective determination and innovative ideas, coupled with their individual strengths, the tailoring business has expanded and the group has gained recognition for their quality fashionable products. Gowrieshwary’s support in marketing and communication is also vital in bridging the communication gaps Janarthani faced before, with her customers.

To further their potential, UNDP stepped in to support this ‘Group’ by assisting them to develop a long-term Business Plan to improve and sustain their product line. Under the European Union funded Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP), UNDP is currently supporting this ‘Ladies Fashion’ Group and 83 other such Groups in the North and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka to sustain their livelihoods. Following the technical skills training provided by the National Design Center, equipment and assets were also provided, thus creating a conducive environment to meet new trends and demand of fast growing markets. The Group has now also been officially registered as a ‘Producer Group’ and recognized by the Department of Industries, Vavuniya.

This year, the Department has also given the Group space for a new outlet so now, ‘Ladies Fashion’ operates with 6 seamstresses stitching to meet the growing demand for tailored products. 2 of these women are speech impaired, including Janarthani. However Janarthani says, “This is not a disability. What you need is self-confidence and this is something that I have gained through the exposure of being a part of this Group. Everyone has aspirations in life and what I can say to everyone else out there is – don’t give up.”

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