Over breakfast this morning, I found myself telling my 6 and 9-year-old daughters about a young girl, who just like them, loved going to school but suddenly found that she couldn’t. It all started with a school assignment that my daughter Anouk was given for International Women’s Day. She had to research and talk about an important female figure who has made a difference through her actions. With the last 12 months being especially tough on young children who found themselves at home, unable to go to school or meet their friends, I felt that the story of the young Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai could not be more relevant than now.

As I quoted Malala who said, “Education is power for women,” my daughters were horrified to hear about the Taliban atrocities and realised that even in today's day and age many young children do not have access to basic primary education and have to fight for it. I explained the link between access to education and economic wellbeing, especially for women.

basket woven from saris

Through my work with rural women artisans and now, while supporting UN Women’s Second Chance education programme, I have first-hand witnessed the transformation of women as they grow more confident knowing that the money they earn is theirs alone, that the knowledge they have amassed will last the rest of their lives.

The ongoing Second Chance programme that JULAHAS supports in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan is slowly taking shape. Our first step when we began was to understand the skill levels of each of the women. While some women were good at embroidery, there were others who were naturally gifted in the technique of basket (tokri) making. 

I reached out to friend and fellow social entrepreneur Gauri Gopal Agarwal from Sirohi.org, who works with 200 women from North India and empowers them by creating lifestyle products using recycled/upcycled waste materials. This allowed the Jaisalmer team to create their first 'sample' - a storage box made from 3 saris based on Sirohi's design model. Now, a world of possibilities have opened.

What next? On-ground training and product development will take place, with the aim to create one product that is of top notch, international design and quality. Watch this space for more!

March 05, 2021 — Kanak Hirani

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