They could be known as 'The Gang of 5’: the five sisters of Barmer.
Confident, hardworking, determined, energetic and enterprising. Meena, Nabhu, Moru, Havita and Suki are like any other millennials in India. They dream big, work hard, are articulate and achievement oriented. They smile a lot. The eldest is 26 years of age and the youngest is 20 years. The age difference between the oldest and the youngest maybe just six years, yet there is a deep bond of friendship and respect between them.
It was Nabhu who first came to work at one of the craft centres of Rangsutra in Barmer District of Rajasthan. Barmer is the fifth largest district in India and shares a border with Pakistan. It has a large population of the Meghwal community who came to India after the Indo-Pak war in 1971. The women are highly skilled at Appliqué, Soof, Pucca and other types of embroidery. However, with limited work opportunities and meagre incomes, the next generation of younger women have stayed away from learning and practicing the different embroideries the region is known for.
But Nabhu saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. She realized that Rangsutra not only trains young people like her and provides regular work, they also provide a centre to work in. Here she could perfect her embroidery skills with the guidance of the older and highly skilled women artisans who also worked at the centre. Sharp and quick to learn, Nabhu became the highest earning member of the group within a few months. This was important for Nabhu as income in her household was meagre, and life was a continuous struggle. Nabhu belongs to a female headed household, after her father’s death it was her mother who brought up the five sisters.
Slowly, the enterprising Nabhu brought her other sisters one by one to the Rangsutra centre and got them trained. They now work together, spending a large part of their day at the centre. Last month, between them, they earned INR 40,000 (515.69 USD) - a substantial sum in remote Barmer where jobs are few and mostly in faraway cities.
Like other women across the world, with their income ‘the Gang of 5’ will contribute to the household expenses and take on other household responsibilities. But the millennial in them thinks big – maybe a smart phone, maybe a few more years of education, maybe build a house for themselves or just save for their own weddings. Maybe they will open a craft centre of their own in a few years. After all, the hardworking ‘Gang of 5’ is allowed to think big.
May the world be your oyster. This is what we at Rangsutra wish for the ‘Gang of 5’!