PROJECT JAGRITI UPDATES
|| Project Jagriti in Rajasthan ||
When we visualised how project Jagriti was supposed to pan out, we never imagined to find ourselves in the remotest deserts in Rajasthan; during the uncertain times of the COVID’19 pandemic, we travelled from Delhi all the way to Barmer and its surrounding villages located in remote and difficult areas. The reason for venturing so far from home was our firm belief that the project had to reach these women artisans who were in genuine need of them and would truly benefit from the digital literacy sessions and the smartphones that we would be giving. It was a great responsibility on our shoulders to ensure that the smart phones reach these women who had a tremendous will to work and who would use the phones as a means of increasing their productivity and financial earnings. We believed that the smallest of change at the grassroots could fan out to a wider ripple effect. Months later after weeks on weeks of planning, our roadmap was set, we planned to cover a network of villages with Barmer as our starting point. Our aim was to further the dynamic of the rural woman and entrepreneurship.
The highlights of the project were women associated with the NGO - GVCS. These women specialized in embroidery and appliqué work and were in a dire need for a means to sell their handicrafts online to broaden their horizons and diversify their work especially on an individual level. We gave these women new LAVA Z61 Pro smart phones as well as much needed digital literacy sessions to help them handle the smart phone.
When I reached the GVCS handicraft centre to conduct the first digital literacy session in Barmer, I was amazed, there were rows of women all sitting with their ghoonghats (veils) busy doing their embroidery work, a sight no one gets to see often, the stories we heard left us in awe at the sight in front of us, women supporting women and succeeding at the quintessential base level all happening in the present moment; A sight that made us realise how the seeds of change, growth and in essence autonomy from the shackles of the status quo, having bled on from the olden norms of patriarchy and unchecked gender equations, which still exist in different forms in a vast majority of India. After conducting the session, we asked them to tell us a bit about themselves and their stories. Few of them volunteered and told us how they are so passionate about their work. I listened to the hardships that these women had faced. However what surprised me was that no matter how many obstacles they were going through, they told me all about them with a smile. They looked happy with their work. “I never used to step out of my ‘sasural’, I was only allowed to visit my family. My work has given me opportunities I could never imagine. I have even been to India gate!” said one of the women. “I earn more than my husband!” said another.
After finishing the session and giving a few smart phones, we left for another village 45 minutes away from the streets of Barmer. Our location was a dhani located a couple of kilometres away from where a kaccha road ended. We abruptly climbed a small hill only to find that the car was stuck, after a futile yet memorable attempt at driving in the desert on sand by our friends at GVCS who took us to the location, we set out on foot. Visuals of temples for deities who we hadn’t even heard about and a thatched house in the distance where dozens of women were waiting enthralled us, the simple unabashed rawness of our motherland instilled a sense of pride in us urban concrete jungle dwellers. We were yet again greeted with the sight of 50 women in colourful lehengas doing embroidery. The women were poverty stricken however looked so immensely satisfied with their work. Unphased by the new technology, the women listened to our digital literacy session with utmost sincerity and a certain determination to reach that level, to climb up another rung on the stairstep they had set out on. Their will to do more and expand their work was so strong. I was sure that these women would benefit the most from Project Jagriti. Five more locations and an authentic local meal - bajra roti and a sabzi whose name I still can't pronounce yet which was cooked for us at a dhani we finally concluded after having given digital literacy sessions to more than 200 women in various villages of Rajasthan - Barmer, Isrol, Aerowala, Chimansar and Sanawara and giving smart phones to some of them.
Project Jagriti was covered and commended by several Rajasthan Newspapers!
We are grateful to all those who donated during the difficult times of the pandemic.
We appreciate the efforts of Ms Ruma Devi and her NGO - Gramin Vikas Evam Chetna Sansthan for welcoming us and helping us to identify and reach the artisans.
We thank LAVA mobiles for their help. We thank Bal Samand Lake Palace for so very enthusiastically helping with Project Jagriti. We also thank Sanchal Fort for giving us consideration for the social work that we were engaged in.
STORIES OF SOME BENEFICIARIES OF PROJECT JAGRITI
PROJECT JAGRITI IN RAJASTHAN NEWSPAPERS
All these women showed extreme courage and determination to fight their circumstances and make themselves able enough to support their family and help alleviate extreme poverty.
Most of these women were motivated by a desire to be able to give better prospects and future to their children. Incredibly they are working in a micro manner towards the development of the nation. These efforts will change the social and economic map of generations to come.
It is a blatant misconception in many parts of India that women getting out of the house would incur a neglect of the family and duties. Ironically, it was concern for the families that made them venture into area and boldly meet challenges and in the process of doing so discover themselves and finding self-fulfillment
It is was very valuable and significant step towards amelioration. This emancipation bodes wonderfully for the future of women in India.