SwaraWoman #5: Omana Chechi


Omana Manoharan is a 55 year old powerhouse, in whose dictionary "giving up" does not exist! Though she grew up with the dream of being a nurse, her life took many different turns for reasons out of her control. It started in 12th standard, when her exam results came in the newspaper (as was the norm in those times) - she was overjoyed to learn that she had passed but unfortunately her mark-sheet went missing! By the time her marks were located, most degree colleges shut their admissions, but thankfully she found a seat for BA political science in a nearby government college.

She won this opportunity due to her networking skills that you will learn, only got better with time! 

After her BA, she was all set to go for a masters, but unfortunately her father fell very ill and needed her care. Through her father's illness she managed to squeeze in a few hours of typewriting every day for a year, before getting married at 23, against her will. As luck would have it, she married a tailor and the two have built a happy family with one son and one daughter. 

How did she become the expert tailor and designer she is today?
Omana used to sketch and experiment with small designs while in school. During her college years, she cultivated her interest by training under Kanakamma Teacher (who is also a Swara Artisan)! The first thing she ever stitched was a nighty, in a new style that had just come into fashion. After marriage her husband started a tailoring shop and she would assist him, however soon enough her father in law fell ill and she was called upon once again. Despite the new responsibility, she refused to give up and instead started taking orders to make clothes at home.
Her beautiful clothes and affable personality ensured that she built a strong network of customers in no time. One of her most loyal customers was an NRI who came twice a year and got her to make 30 - 40 garments for her family.

She is grateful to her many customers for giving her the opportunity to hone her designing and sewing skills. Many of her customers just bring their measurements and let her design the clothes and the fabric required.


Swara met Omana Chechi earlier this year, and it was love at first sight. We are so happy to share that this month she has ventured out to start a Self Help Group (SHG) comprising 11 incredible women tailors from her community. She will be leading the SHG as an independent business and we can't wait to see how she leads it. 

What does she do in her free time?
Omana has developed a strong love for reading over the years. She used to frequent the public library and read anything she could get her hands on. She especially loves reading about global current events. She also takes pride in mentoring other women from her neighbourhood. 
What is her message for the women reading this?
Omana believes that women can do whatever they put their minds to, provided they can focus and work hard. She also believes that financial independence is paramount for all people. Rather than complaining about circumstances, she urges women to take the initiative to improve their skills and go to find work for themselves. She believes that whatever bad experiences one may have gone through, should be used for learning.

She wants to be the change she wants to see and create a world for her daughters that is full of possibility and support for women.
Apart from her family and her work, Omana is also a natural born leader. About 12 years ago she saw an opportunity to change things in her own community and stood for panchayat elections and lost by all of 4 votes! At Swara, we hope that she stands again - she is such an inspiration to all of us.

Omana is really proud of her work on Chembarathi dress. Check out the dress here! It carries Omana's purpose and dedication. 
A graceful ankle-length dress with bold floral print. You can live in its loose and comfortable silhouette. It might just become your favourite! 
Thank you for reading.
Here's hoping your Thursday is full of motivation!


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