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Queens of Quilts: How One Women-Run SHG in Rajasthan Has Made Its Members Independent

Women of Hatheli explored their blanket making skills to become self-dependent.

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The women of Shyam SHG (Self Help Group) and Maharani SHG from Hatheli village in Phagi district of Rajasthan are the being hailed as pioneers of self-dependence in their community. These women have been employed in this business for 6 years and began their journey after undertaking a loan from Apani, Milaap’s local partner.

“We make export quality quilts!” beams Banwar Kanwar, one of the oldest in the group, who is also one of the community heads of Apani. The export market for these hand woven blankets is huge and despite being a seasonal necessity, these women have work all year round. Describing the process, Dariyav Kanwar, another group member explains,“We buy rolls of cotton, thread and bolts of fabric from Jaipur, and each hand-weaves their own Razaai (quilt) in 2-3  days sitting in the comforts of their home.”

Previously employed in various sectors such as animal husbandry and contract labour, these women have tasted freedom, ease of access and self-dependence in their relatively new enterprise of Razaai making.

After years of being employed in this field, they are now experts and earn around Rs. 250-300 per quilt which takes, on an average, 3 to 4 days to stitch. When asked where they learned this skill, they plainly state, “By copying from samples.” It’s surprising and at the same time inspiring how many of these women employed in different professions such as block printing, stone work and even ‘Arataari’ have learned through the method of trial and error and are not formally trained.

One ought to bow to the number of hardships they have conquered in their quest to do something out of their skills. Skills that they have personally cultivated.

As a result of this, they are now able to save money and invest in their children’s education and feel financially secure. “Earlier I had to beg for money from my husband even to buy ‘Churis’ (bangles) of my choice, now I can buy them from my own money,” gleams the newly wed and the most recent addition to Maharani SHG, Tara Kanwar. Savings from the extra income enable these women to insure their old age or medical expenses and they are proud of not being a liability to anyone, not even the exploitative money lender.

When asked, “Do you want your children to take your skill forward?”, Tara Kanwar immediately replied, “It’s their life, who are we to make the decisions for their life, but I will surely teach them the importance of self-dependence, because I wish I myself had learned it sooner.”

Talking about the whole journey and how it changed their perception of themselves, Banwar ji replied, “Now, even I can pretend to be busy! Just like my husband, even I have work!”

Think of all the excessive media coverage of glamorous celebs when actual, real heroes are sitting here, amongst us, in towns, in villages, in each and every home, we just need to look in the right place! 

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