Sangrur | How this entrepreneur is helping empower rural women through handicraft

The wife of a retired naval officer is reviving dying traditional crafts and empowering disadvantaged and uneducated women living in the adjacent areas of her ancestral village of Balwaar Khurd.

Kirandeep Kaur, 56, wife of Ranbir Singh, who retired from the Navy as Lieutenant Commander, provides these women with materials and resources to weave durries, khes, manjees, embroidered napkins, tea cosies and cushions .

She later collects these pieces and sells them online or at exhibitions. She and her husband are now settled in their ancestral village.

Thanks to their efforts, 30 women who used to weave ‘khes’ and ‘durries’ for their daughters’ or their own dowries have now become financially independent. They weave “Khes” and “Durries” on traditional looms. Some of them complete an apprenticeship here, after which they can start their own business. Previously, these women either worked for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) or did seasonal work in the fields. Now they work from home.

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“After my husband retired, we settled here because my husband wanted to spend the rest of his life farming on our land and I wanted to be involved in women’s empowerment,” Kaur said.

“Especially in rural areas there is so much potential in the weaving trade. These women have been skilled craftswomen since childhood, weaving “khes” and “durries” for their dowries. They just need to brush up on their skills. I try to keep their talent and give them the opportunity to be on their own,” she added.

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Sarabjeet Kaur, 40, a resident of the Balwaar Klan, makes money 15,000 a month, that’s more than what her son earns. He transports goods with “jugad rehri”.

She said her husband was bedridden due to an illness and only she and her older son are the breadwinners of the family.

“I’ve worked with Ma’am (Kirandeep) for the last seven years. I used to weave ‘khes’ for my dowry, but I didn’t know I could make any money from it. Somehow I got in touch with her and she polished my weaving skills. Now I earn 500 per khes,” she added.

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Manjeet Kaur, 45, from Jagatpura Village, said: “I have been weaving ‘Durries’ for the last four months. I used to work under the MGNREGA, but now I earn more than the daily wage I received under the program.”

Harpal Kaur, 50, a resident of Gagarpur village, said: “Since I started making money weaving ‘durries’ I don’t have to ask my husband or son for money. Instead, I give them money to run the house.”