Chhoti Si Asha is a social enterprise that works to build sustainable livelihoods for underprivileged women in the slum communities of Chandigarh, India. As part of the initiative, we run two programs – “Stitch-a-living” – a social enterprise where slum women are trained to make various kind of high quality handbags and home accessories, “Janta Colony Library” – an after school program for the children of the slum.

We’re a fair trade organization and take pride in the fact that we pay our workforce – most of whom are women from the slum - above market wages. Further, we re-plough 100% of profits earned from sale of merchandise into growing the endeavour and performing various other community activities.

Chhoti Si Asha started as an experiment in love and has since grown into an organization that not only positively affects the community but also the volunteers who become a part of our story. Liza, founder of CSA, entered the sector 17 market of Chandigarh with an intention to interact with street children. Armed with her intention and no plan, she met two street-smart boys, Anike (10 years old) and Sunny (7 years old). Liza approached them and started a conversation about their lives. In this conversation the boys expressed an interest to learn. From there, the children and other members of their community joined in and built a strong relationship of trust and acceptance with Liza and slowly started to learn not just academic skills but also life skills. 

Chhoti Si Asha formally started tuition classes with the children. In addition to the academic tuitions, CSA engaged the children in arts and crafts, to increase their concentration and fine motor skills. These handicrafts assisted the children in earning money which also worked to rehabilitate the children from begging on the streets. Slowly, the boys began to express an interest in learning a livelihood. CSA worked hard to place them in many different vocations. The boys tried everything from electrician work to plumbing. However, the the vocation that held their interest the longest was tailoring and stitching. We invested in machines and began our Stitch-a-Living journey! 

As the boys grew more skilled in their craft, Chhoti Si Asha began to get local orders from different institutions. As the orders began to roll in, we realized we needed more hands and more skills. Further, the lifestyle of the street boys was such that it was very difficult for them to commit to a fixed time schedule. Therefore, we also needed some more reliability from our workforce. Enter the women. Liza contacted another local NGO, DIR, also working in slum communities of Chandigarh. With assistance from the DIR field staff, we were connected to a group of women from Janta Colony who had been trained in stitching under DIR’s guidance. Chhoti Si Asha gave these women an opportunity to make an income through stitching. Slowly, the women learned the technique of stitching bags and in the process, also became irreplaceable resources for the team.

Our mission/objective is to provide meaningful livelihood opportunities to the slum women by using skillsets that they already have like stitching, knitting, crochet etc. Via these livelihood opportunities, we want to empower these women with different Life Management skills and be their mentors in their day to day life. At the same time, we want to ensure that we provide the best quality and chic products to our customers.We want this project to be sustainable as well as aim plough back all the profits back into the community activities and supporting the education/volcational/mentoring of the children.

Our vision is to create a community of women who work towards providing the best quality products in the market and hone their skills and their confidence such that they are not afraid to go out into the world and work.

CSA's objective is to manufacture high quality chic handbags, conference merchandise and home accessories while working with slum women and providing them with an enabling, empowering work environment.Aside of livelihood, Chhoti Si Asha’s helps it’s community in availing Government schemes in education, vocational training & public food distribution system . It also focuses on inner development of the communities it works with through workshops on meditation, street theatre, hygiene and co-operative game- playing.We do this by :-Leveraging skill-sets that women from the slum community already have (such as stitching, knitting, weaving etc)-Creating contemporary and market-driven designs.-Establishing detailed processes around production.-Sourcing high quality raw material from bulk markets in New Delhi, Chennai and Calcutta.-Being hyper focused on delivering quality products.-Streamlining quality checks and compliance.-Retailing merchandise through online portals, institutionalized retail networks, exhibitions and conferences.-Use of corporate best practices for inventory management, accounting and regulatory compliance.-We lay emphasis on furthering life skills of the women we work with – and actively engage them on subjects such as conflict management, team work, supporting each other, operating with fairness and making positive contribution to their community.-Our roadmap is shaped by the needs of the community we work with and our social programs are incepted working along with community members. Aside of livelihood programs, we also emphasize on "having a good time" and celebrate festivals, birthdays and important milestones with much gusto !-Our endeavour is to work with the community, as opposed to working for them – and therefore we try to do everything with love, acceptance and collective participation.

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