They come from the remotest corners of India but despite challenging circumstances have managed to uplift themselves by making the best use of their indigenous potential. Poverty and lack of a mainstream education did not deter them from taking a step forward and empowering others. Budhari Tati from Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada; Surendri Devi Rana, who is associated with National Rural Livelihood Mission; Bhil artist Bhuri Bai; and traditional folk singer Achamma from Andhra Pradesh, were part of the ‘VANVASI SHAKTI-India’s indigenous potency’ panel at Network18’s Rising India-She Shakti conclave on Friday.
The session, moderated by Firstpost’s Palki Sharma, touched upon their personal journeys each unique in their own way and with inspiring stories of perseverance.
Budhari Tati from Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district said she had uplifted more than 500 women in the highly Naxal-affected area to become
. First and foremost, it was important to educate these women, especially those who had never been to school, she added. By doing that, she said, she had ensured that these women can be self-reliant.
While it was not easy for Bhuri Bai to overcome the resistance showed by her husband and in-laws to her natural inclination towards the traditional art form of Pithora (ritualistic paintings), her talent stood her in good stead at the end. Today, with the blessings of artist J Swaminathan of Bhopal’s Bharat Bhavan, she is a much sought-after Bhil artist from Pitol village in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh.
“Bhil adivasi women don’t make Pithora murals like in the form of religious idols, but it was my childhood hobby to draw in this form. I would make the colours with my own hands, red or black, used leaves to make green. I decorated my home for weddings and pooja rituals. My parents were very poor, sometimes we did not even have grains or pulses to eat. So, my sister and I worked in other people’s fields for Re 1. Then, I got married and moved to Bhopal with my husband and started working at Bharat Bhavan as a construction labourer. J Swaminathan, who was a big artist, discovered my talent and asked me to paint on paper and canvas. He asked me about my traditions and culture. He had offered me Rs 10 per day for my paintings but I insisted on Rs 6 as that was my daily wage as a labourer and I was afraid of what my husband would say if he knew I was earning extra money,” said Bhuri Bai, who was awarded Padma Shri in 2021.
For Surendri Devi Rana, it was difficult even to save Rs 20 per month. But she’s now helping numerous women under the National Rural Livelihood Mission to save Rs 150 per month by working as tailors.
“I was from a very poor family, so someone asked me to form a self-help group with around 15 women; 10 of us met and would submit Rs 20 into the bank and then we got Rs 50,000 loan. I then helped others to form similar groups and I am now the president of all. The ones I taught, at least 1,000 of them, have become master tailors. They are happy and self-reliant. I always tell them to teach their daughters and daughters-in-law as well. People used to gossip a lot when I would step out of the village for my work, but my husband and in-laws were very supportive,” Rana said.
Rising India-She Shakti is a unique initiative aimed to honour the accomplishments of women and will be driven by women as well. The conclave will serve as a platform to showcase their achievements, share stories, and inspire a new generation of leaders.
As underlined by the prime minister, India has now entered a women-led development phase. The advancement towards becoming a developed nation is closely linked to the active participation of Indian women.
This conclave seeks to amplify the recognition of women who not only broke the glass ceiling but also broke gender stereotypes and inspired ‘atmanirbharta’ (self-reliance).
President Droupadi Murmu was the chief guest of the evening. Influential personalities such as WCD minister Smriti Irani, actor Shraddha Kapoor, legendary singer Asha Bhosle, playback singer Sunidhi Chauhan, among others were also a part of the event.