SavitaBen, a skillful embroidery artist, found her purpose and her identity in a Self Help Group created to preserve the age-old art form ‘Khatla Bharat’.
“I was the third girl child in the family. The burdens on my family were very high. However, we managed to make do with what we had. My mother is a tailor while my father was a daily wage laborer in a construction site. When I was 3 years old, he passed away due to a heart attack. Things got difficult. My sisters had to leave school to support us while I never got a chance to study. I used to help my mother in her stitching. When I turned 18, my mother married me off to a young suitable boy in the village. My in-laws were pleasant and my husband used to take good care of me. Everything was all right. But I never felt that I had my own identity. I had to depend on my husband for money. More than money, I felt as if I had no objective in my life.
Then one afternoon, someone from Cadila Pharmaceuticals came to our village and started talking to two of my friends and to me. We talked about the culture and people here. He then talked to us about the concept of Self Help Groups and encouraged us to organize ourselves and help each other to empower ourselves. He then proposed the idea of teaching us “Khatla Bharat”, one of the oldest embroidery form.
I was excited. For the first time, I felt I could do something useful and help my fellow people too. The biggest challenge was to convince other women to join. Everyone was fearful of their families and some said they didn’t have time. I was scared that my in-laws would not support me either. But when I broke the news to them, they encouraged me to take up the initiative and not be afraid. My husband especially was supportive. In the evenings, he now helps me in household chores so that the entire burden does not fall upon me.
A few weeks later, we finally managed to create a group of 55 women. 20 of us are now undergoing month-long professional training to learn more advanced techniques of the art. Upon completion of the training, we will be able to earn up to Rs. 5,000 per month by getting orders directly from manufacturing units. This amount will help us improve the economic conditions at our homes.
Our small group is now expanding and showing some great potential. Women from neighboring villages are showing interest. We also plan to expand our scope to beauty parlor, tailoring units, etc.
This would not have been possible without the help of Cadila Pharmaceuticals. They help us by providing technical knowhow and financial support to procure materials required for the training. Going forward, they will also help us connect to the market and teach us how to market our products.
NGOs such as SEWA has also started showing interest in us and regularly hold motivational and informative sessions to guide us through this journey.
Even though we have just started out, the future looks very bright. Our skills are finally coming into use and now women of the village have an equal voice as that of the men. We are finally heard and we now dream of a future that belongs to us.”