Their embroidery skills have turned women in Uttar Pradesh’s Aagapur village into entrepreneurs

A woman in a small village in Uttar Pradesh is glued to Fashion TV. Don’t be surprised as Munisha is no ordinary villager but a ‘dress designer’ in her own right. “I have to catch up with the times, people want something different each time,” says the thorough professional.

Munisha is the driving force behind the Sadabahar Self Help Group in Aagapur village of Rampur district, involved in zari and patchwork.

The group which has 14 members started with an initial contribution of just Rs. 20 per month by each member in 2000. Once Sadabahar proved its credentials by showing that they have been able to increase the amount to Rs. 15,000, it was given the revolving fund of Rs. 25,000 by a bank for buying raw materials like cloth, threads, zari and other requirements. In 2003, the group, which is now making a regular profit, took another loan of Rs. 240,000.

The members, mostly illiterate, started with training in patchwork and then went on to learning zari work. Munisha says she and some other women underwent six months’ training in zari work as there is a huge scope for this work. Zari work from Rampur is famous; it is exported to Gulf countries and many families in the district have been doing it for generations.

The patchwork and zari work on salwar suits and saris done by Sadabahar is yet to win any national award for craftsmanship but has earned these village entrepreneurs both recognition and profits. Munisha and other group members have travelled to Lucknow, Delhi, Mumbai, Odisha, Dehra Dun and many other places across the country to display and sell their products at sale exhibitions. The dresses and saris with zari, patchwork and embroidery done by them have been a hit at different fairs and local melas in Rampur and other parts of U.P.

The Group has also trained young girls in the craft and now they are able to earn money and help their families. They include Nasreen and Nisha. Eighteen-year-old Nasreen has never been to school but now earns some money through work given to her by the Sadabahar group.

“My parents never sent me to school as I am a girl but I have learnt zari work and now I am able to earn some money and help my family,” says Nasreen.

Nisha, on the other hand, studies in ninth standard. “We are not allowed to go out and work in the fields and the zari work can be done by sitting at home.”

Munisha says that whenever they need to organise bulk orders within a short time for exhibitions, they hire young girls or other trained women from outside and pay them according to the work done by them ranging from Rs. 100 to Rs. 150 per piece.

The profit earned from the sales is divided among the members of the group. All the women in the group belong to low-income group families and some of them even work under MGNREGA projects. More than saving money and entrepreneurship, the group has become an extended family where the women can share their joys and sorrows.

Whenever any member of the group requires money, they can take a loan on two per cent interest. One of them, Durga, says, “At least, we don’t have to go to money lenders for our small needs.”

The group holds meetings twice a month where they discuss issues related to various welfare schemes, health or social issues like dowry and discrimination against women. Sometimes government or NGOs use the platform to inform and educate the village women about their rights through puppetry and other media.

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