Dhaani – a new line of products by rural women – will be showcased in Delhi today

It all started with flood relief work in rural Bihar. But it did not end with that. It continued as a journey to help women in the villages transform from daily wage farm labourers into micro-entrepreneurs with an income of their own and one which gave them a voice and clout within the family.

Anhad, though essentially a human rights organisation, found during its flood relief work that men of a majority of households migrated to cities in search of work. Women who were left behind remained marginalised, voiceless and forced to take to daily wage work. To bring relief to them, Anhad embarked on a literacy and vocational training programme, organising the women and setting up empowerment centres.

In two years it covered 11 villages in Araria and Purnea districts and trained 500 women in the art of weaving mats, durries and producing jute products. At first the local markets became the selling outlets, but then the need was felt to reach out to a larger market place so that the women could earn more.

Here came the intervention of a group of young film makers – ‘Progressive Films’—and an internet marketing company – ‘Reprise Media’. They stepped in to improve the design, build a professional product line and introduce new inventory in cotton, linen and silk. The women who made jute bags and mats, now added cushion covers, stoles, kitchen linen, complete with a website engaging with a new Internet savvy consumer base.

Meanwhile, Anhad also started working in rural Kashmir and Haryana and over five years has replicated the same empowerment model.

So, now with a new line of products -- ‘Dhaani’ -- designed by professionals and launched on Wednesday in the Capital, the women are ready to take their livelihoods to another level.