Nisha was a student of class nine in Palwal, Haryana when her parents decided to get her married. Her gauna, a ceremony that marks the bride’s move into her marital home, was done three years later, in 2012, when she completed her schooling.
Nisha gained interest in the ACT livelihood initiative when she observed the women in her family make the products, participate in training, and travel for meetings and exhibitions. She was encouraged to learn the craft by her elder sister Krishna, herself an ACT Master Craftsperson and Trainer.
Trained by the master craftswomen in the group, Nisha was quick to grasp the intricacies of the upcycling craft and was soon producing fine products at par with the seasoned craftswomen. These days she is working hard to become an expert in making handbags – an innovative new addition to the Paper Wings range.
“I am 22 years old. I was never keen to marry so early and wanted to continue my studies and become a teacher. But my parents could not afford to let me study further. They got me married early as in the village marriage is believed to be the best way to secure a girl’s future, especially if you are poor.
My husband is a mason. Initially, he was hesitant to let me join the livelihood programme. He would say, ‘I am earning for us, if you start earning, I would have to sit at home. It’s better if you concentrate only on housework.’
When he would talk this way, it would make me angry. Sometimes I would argue with him, but in my heart, I did not want to do anything without his consent. Gradually, seeing that so many women in the village were getting involved in Paper Wings, including three women from our own family, he eventually allowed me to join,” Nisha briefly narrates her story.
Nisha says it was her dream to be financially independent and learning the upcycling craft has given her the opportunity to earn an income without leaving home. She uses her income from Paper Wings to support her husband in meeting the household expenses. He no longer objects to her being involved in the work, though he is still hesitant in allowing her to travel for training and marketing activities.
“I enrolled in Open University soon after marriage but with all the housework, it was difficult to make time for commuting and studies. With the upcycling work, I don’t need to leave home and can choose the amount of work I want to do. When I create something with my hands, I feel really good.”
Although she is relatively new to the group, Nisha has scaled the learning curve rather quickly; she shows a keen interest in other areas of the programme and wants to get involved in product design, marketing, and promotional activities.
“I have a million wishes and I believe there is so much to learn and explore beyond the walls of my home. With ACT, I am getting to do more with my life, and I really value this opportunity.”
“Man karta hai aur seekhne ka, aur banane ka, aage badhne ka, khud kamane ka…“, says an enthusiastic Nisha with a million dollar smile on her face.
In our previously published conversation with Nilanjana Das, the founder of ACT, she answered the clichéd question – What do you get in return? – “I feel good when our efforts are appreciated. The project is spreading its wings, more and more people are getting associated with us. People do ask me where the profit is when you are doing so much work. I tell them profit cannot be only in terms of money.”