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Rural India And A Spirit Of Empowerment (Article Which I Published In Impulse Magazine)


Although there is larger-than-life work to be done to uplift the condition of the women in the society, sometimes certain societal events give a radiant ray of optimism for the future. I am not the kind of person who believes too much in ‘slogan mongering’, ‘destructive criticism’, and ‘empty words’ because I believe “one shouldn’t sit around and complain about things, but to do something to find a solution!” Perhaps, the same belief inspired Ruma Devi, an Indian traditional handicraft artisan from Rajasthan, who despite limited resources and narrow thinking of the society paved a way out for herself and made it to the top. Like any other village women, Ruma Devi also had to face adverse miseries to fight for her rights, She was forced out of the school, when was in eight standard which deprived her of substantial education. She was married at a tender age of 17, when a child is not even mature enough to understand the world around. Amidst all this chaos happening in her life which torn her apart, Ruma found it difficult to figure out how to form her own identity. She experienced a point of stagnation in her life, barred behind the constraints of patriarchy, where women are expected to stay within the four walls of house, raise children, wear a ghunghat (a ritual still practiced in some rural areas of India, where married women stretch their saree till their chin to cover their face. It is considered as a respectful gesture.) when they step out of the house, and be completely dependent on their husbands when it comes to financial or any other kind of freedom.

Deprived of sufficient education and financial independence, Ruma found no way she could form her identity. All she knew perfectly was embroidery, which she learned from her grandmother during her childhood. Passionate about handicraft, she thought to invest her time and energy in this field. She started a self-help group after managing to convince about ten women from her village in 2006.

With a contribution of about hundred rupees from each lady, they bought a second-hand stitching machine, cloth, threads and plastic wrappers for making cushions and bags. Her quest for success took her to the doorstep of Gramin Vikas Evam Chetna Sansthan (Barmer, Rajasthan) and she joined it as a member in 2008, after facing much friction from her family and society, who considered it a taboo if the woman of the house works to run the household. Her indefatigable spirit, contribution towards her art and a carefree attitude towards “what will people say?” made her the President of the NGO in 2010. The tide turned in favor of Ruma and she got the offer to do her first exhibition in Rafi Marg, New Delhi, which was a major breakthrough for her.

The courage to cross boundaries and her love for Indian Weaves started to bring her in the spotlight. People started to look upto Ruma as an inspiration who transformed the lives of more than 22,000 women of Rajasthan giving them power of self-sufficiency, independence and reliance. Ruma did her first fashion show (as an independent designer) at Rajasthan Heritage Week which brought her laurels and recognition. If we look at Ruma today, her story looks no less than a dream come true. Her designs and prints are in Vogue on the fashion circuit. Her designs are appreciated and adorned by fashion designers like Anita Dongre, Bibi Russell, Abraham and Thakore, to name a few. From getting lost in the backward areas of rural India, she put the indigenous designs and handicraft to the ramp floor of innumerous fashion shows in India and abroad. Ruma travels to Germany, England, Thailand and other countries where her work is in demand. Recently, she was awarded the Fashion Design Prize by Textile Fairs India. The icon previously has received the Nari Shakti Puraskar presented to her by the President of India. She was invited to Harvard University, US, as a panelist in its 17th all India conference. There is a whole list of her merits which can leave legends behind.

With a single tread of well thought ideas, Ruma Devi, despite facing boundless hardships, revolutionized the future of the women of her community by providing them with opportunities and growth. Ruma says that it is often impossible for her to believe where she has come from whenever she retrospects. But the legacy Ruma left behind serves as an inspiration for millions of women and men suffering in life due to internal or external situations. She showed that the power of dream and determination cannot be subdued by any challenge in the world. In my belief there can be no better feminism icon than people and risk-takers as Ruma Devi, who went against the social stigma and proved through their actions that women don’t need men to empower them, they are already empowered, they just need a free and liberated space to express themselves.

"How I wish, every woman got a chance to follow her passion instead of suffering the emptiness of life inside the bars of patriarchy!"

-Shreyash

 

References:

November 2019 - Ruma Devi for the social lit - The social lit. (2019, November 7). The Social Lit. https://thesociallit.com/november-2019-ruma-devi-for-the-social-lit/


A stitch in time | The social warriors. (2018, December 23). India Today. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/the-big-story/story/19700101-a-stitch-in-time-the-social-warriors-1415260-2018-12-23


IANS. (2019, October 16). Designer Ruma Devi who battled hardships to help 22,000 women become financially independent. Swarajyamag. https://swarajyamag.com/news-brief/designer-ruma-devi-who-battled-hardships-to-help-22000-women-become-financially-independent

 

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