Artisan Spotlight: How One Former Child Bride Turned Her Struggle Into A Social Enterprise.
In this issue of Artisan Spotlight, we look at the remarkable story of how one former child bride turned her struggle into a social enterprise, bringing hope and empowerment to vulnerable women and reviving the ancient art of tie-dye.
Born in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, Amrita, the youngest of five siblings, came from an ordinary family. By the time she was eighteen years old, she was already married with two children. Not so ordinary you may think, but for this region of Rajasthan, high rates of child marriage are common. Ironic really, considering the legal age of marriage is 18 and literacy rates are high too. Rajasthan is also known for its high levels of male migration where the lack of work opportunities at home, forces men to seek employment overseas - usually in the Gulf countries. Inevitably, women are frequently left behind to care for their children, families and in-laws - a huge responsibility that leaves no room or consideration for personal growth or education. In some communities, women are completely abandoned by their husbands who choose to remarry and settle abroad. Stigmatised by society and in financial difficulty, many women face a future of uncertainty, dependence and emotional stress.
Amrita found herself in similar circumstances. Left to fend for herself, she spent months battling personal issues with her in-laws, defending her rights and status as a woman. Even though Amrita had over a decade of experience of working as an activist for women in rural and remote areas, her problems were no different to anyone else's. She felt just as vulnerable as those around her. But she knew she had to change her situation and make a difference to the lives of others. Recognising there were many women in her situation who had the same struggles, she started an NGO. Run only by women, for women, the organisation offered support, irrespective of caste or religion to women experiencing issues such as child marriage, violence, gender discrimination and lack of employment opportunity.
As time went by, Amrita recognised that many women were exceptionally skilled in the art of tie-dye, but were not getting regular income from this. So in 2011, after borrowing money from her friends and risking all her savings, this determined young woman, set about training five women in the art of tie-dye.
Today, Amrita manages 40 self-help groups, totalling 400 women. Here, the dying arts of Shibori and Bandhani are revived and the skills of the artisans championed. Working from a small workshop, the women are taught quality control and design. They get regular work and therefore earn a regular income, empowering themselves financially to be independent. The organisation seeks to instil self-confidence and self-esteem into every aspect of their lives.
It was not easy for Amrita to get this far. She had to face complex cultural issues, train women in an art traditionally dominated by men and overcome logistical as well as financial problems. We think her courage, tenacity and passion to empower women is truly inspirational.
The Art of Shibori
Shibori is a 1300-year-old tie and dye technique developed in Japan, involving the folding, clamping or securing of fabric prior to dyeing. Shibori was introduced to India supposedly by Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, in the early 20th century.
A Shibori dyed silk scarf in charcoal grey. Geometric circles and lines give this scarf a contemporary feel. Generous in width and length, it can also be worn as a shawl or beach sarong adding timeless elegance to any outfit. Drapes beautifully!