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Stories of care and respect

Know about the women behind this movement of courage and hope

Nirmala

We believe that our communities of artisans, particularly women, In a rural commune where women are socially and professionally confined within the walls of their households, Nirmala aspired for more. With her widowed mother-in-law’s help, she circumvented her overly protective husband, to find learning opportunities around her. She happened upon the Unnati project, and there was no looking back for her. Her husband strongly opposed her entrepreneurial aspirations, as, for him, the male breadwinner in the family was socio-economically more than sufficient. Then, a most terrible tragedy struck when her husband was lost in service to the country. With four mouths to feed, and no bread, the still-grieving, widowed Nirmala battled to support her children and mother-in-law. With their encouragement, she sought out financial aid from her Self-help group, and opened a rural boutique. Persevering through the slow climb to stability, the brave single mother now runs her household with over a lakh INR monthly income, and has carved a niche for herself in her society, where she is an active leader for change in social and environmental issues. She continues to inspire the women of her village to step toward self-reliance, like her.

Sushma Devi

She would quietly peer through the cracks of her mud-caked earthen home and watch other women from her village leave for their local jobs, all the while wishing she had some skill-set to make use of. A young mother of three, belonging to the most socio-economically disadvantaged sub-section of her village, Sushma was deprived of education and exposure all through her formative years. Over the years, she picked up the craft of making dolls, but ran into an exploitative middleman who, she soon realized, was duping her. In Unnati, not only did her skill improve but the exposure broadened her perspective as well. She began devising ingenious ways of making her dolls unique and multi-functional. Her team of doll-makers now cater to a lot of overseas demand and their dolls are a local favourite among younger age groups. She even prepares special editions of dolls for festive holidays such as Christmas and Ganesh Chaturthi. Now digitally savvy, Sushma is seen accepting online payments, and browsing YouTube for boosting her creativity.

Babli

Born in a family with five children, Babli had to drop out of school after 9th grade, to help with household work. As part of her domestic chores, she learned basic stitching, and helped raise her four younger siblings. Luck did not favor her married life as well, as she lost her husband to an electrocution accident, shortly after the birth of her second child. As is within customs, her kin soon arranged for her to be remarried to her brother-in-law, who was himself a widower. Now a mother of three, with one child from her husband’s previous marriage, Babli did not have enough means to even feed her household. To rely solely on her husband’s irregular day wages would mean slow starvation. As her economic condition depreciated to distress, she looked to Unnati for up-skilling herself and gradually completed specialized courses on making children’s garments. Today, she is part of a self-help group, availing basic savings services from her income as a tailor.

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