I’d like to share a story today; a story that is apt for Women’s Day.
The story goes like this. A few years ago, at a community meeting for women, someone asked the group, “As a woman, what is that one skill you have that can contribute economically?” A few women responded. one said “making agarbattis” and another said ‘making pickles’ and the answers stopped. Then, after a long pause, a woman asked “What can I do, apart from making “godhadis?”The group had a good laugh about this seemingly trivial idea. What was pushed aside as a laughable suggestion is now changing the life of close to 2000 women in the village of Bahadarpur in the Jalagaon district of Maharashtra. Seeing merit in this idea, our field partner BNGVN has formed a collective of women from the community all of them now contributing to the production of more than 250,000 quilts every 6 months. The sheer scale of effort leaves one mesmerized and the community engagement is inspiring and the simplicity of the idea is just way too humbling.
On a recent visit, I saw women working in 3 shifts and clocking close to 16 hour days collectively and the men are now helping the women too! One of the members turned up late to a Gram Sabha Meeting and when questioned, he said he was helping his wife with the cutting the cloth for the quilt. Making quilts has become their life now and the process has been divided into several sub tasks and each group is responsible for one of these activities. One group is responsible for cutting, one for sewing and one for packing and so on.
At 11.30 PM in the night the ‘chehel’, ‘pehel’ in the front yard of the office of BNGVN was simply breathtaking. And there were many lessons to be learnt from the humble idea of a quilt. So often, as women we hesitate to share our ideas or speak our mind, mostly with the worry that it is not an idea worth sharing. And here was an idea that was laughed at and is now changing the lives of thousands.
Many such ideas that were once laughed at have proved to be transformational. Be it the idea of Seva Bank or the one of Lijjat Papad. This Women’s Day, let us celebrate the power of ideas and the power of one woman to change — her family, her community and the world!