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Jaali work empowers them - 2010-10-31

Sunday, 2010, October 31
Richi Verma

NEW DELHI: Twenty-eight-year-old Anisha, now a mother of four, was married off at the tender age of nine. Born and brought up in Bihar, she landed in Delhi with her husband, who paints for a living. From her ordinary existence as a housewife in Nizamuddin basti, she has emerged as a respected earning member of the family who brings home up to Rs 5,000-8,000 every month. For this, Anisha put in almost three years to train herself in traditional sanjhi cutting and jaali pattern work.

"I started undergoing training for sanjhi cutting and the response has been tremendous. Not only am I able to financially help my family, but the project has given me a great exposure," said Anisha, who has never worked before. She said her family has provided all the support she needed. "I work part time from home and now, I am working on my communication skills too," she said.

Along with Anisha, 34 other women from the basti have come out of the dark to help support their families and at the same time learn the much-neglected art of traditional paper cutting, which originated in Mathura, UP. They have formed a self-help group — Noor — to market the products created at home. Much like the youths of Nizamuddin — who are training to become tourist guides in the heritage-rich area — these women have also taken the initiative to become independent and improve their quality of life. The products made by them include jaali patterns in the form of monuments, greetings cards, notebooks, lampshades, wall hangings, etc. Besides, the women make customized cuttings and products — all of which are currently on sale at the Diwali mela of the Blind School in Sunder Nagar. At the recent Dastakar mela held at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, their works brought them a total of Rs 15,000 on one single day.

Ranging between Rs 25 and Rs 2,000, these products have found many takers. In fact, talks are on to market the items through a souvenir shop at Humayun's Tomb. AKTC officials added the corpus of Noor is strengthened by bulk orders such as that from the German Embassy and Aga Khan Development Network offices. "After a year, the women have gained confidence through life-skills training. So far, Aga Khan Development Network agencies have purchased their products. The phenomenal success at the mela will encourage many other women to join in. Further training in management and marketing will be provided," said Deeti Ray, programme officer, cultural revival, AKTC.

This cultural revival project is a part of the vocational training programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture's urban renewal project in the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti and is co-funded by Ford Foundation. The women have been trained by skilled craftsmen. According to officials, the project aims to link heritage with opportunities for economic gain by training both women and men. When the programme started in 2009, Noor had 10 members. As more women came forward, the increased to 35.

Read more: Jaali work empowers them - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Jaali-work-empowers-them/a...

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