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Victims Of Abuse, These Women In Bodh Gaya Now Earn By Turning Temple Flower Waste Into Dyes

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Women like Malati or Kanchan from interior villages of Bihar rarely make headlines, yet their everyday life is a saga of endless struggles worthy of stirring novels. Born and bred in poverty, they fail to acquire even the basic education and are married off early. For most of them, their plight knows no bounds at the in-laws’ home where abuse, violence and neglect welcome them, hoarding the proud banner of patriarchy.

Malati, who hails from Gaya, was pushed to the edge by an alcoholic and abusive husband. She decided to take a bold step. She joined a team of thirty other women like her, who were trained and employed by ‘Matr’ (मातृ ) in The Happy Hands Project – an organic fashion venture which turns temple flower waste from Bodh Gaya into colourful dyes for Khadi clothes.

The Happy Hands Project
Women at work

The first few days were hard for Malati. Her mother-in-law was severely apprehensive; her husband used to snatch away her phone and force her to stay home. Her character was questioned. But, things changed once she started earning. The little financial independence she secured for herself earned her respect at home. The violence stopped, so did the mental abuse she tolerated days after days.

Speaking to Efforts For Good, fashion designer Praveen Chauhan, co-founder of ‘The Happy Hands Project’, also shares the story of another woman, Kanchan. “She was abandoned by her husband at a very young age. She was helpless, living as a ‘liability’ in her father’s place. But, when she became a part of this project, Kanchan was determined not to depend on her father anymore. A few days back when I called her, I could sense the rejoice in the voice of her family member who answered the phone,” shares Praveen.

The Happy Hands Project
Hues of happiness

More than a simple job

For the marginalised women in Gaya, The Happy Hands Project is more than a mere job. It is their magical key for stepping out of their dingy four walls, damp with their untold stories and tears. The project was started in September 2018 and has engaged around thirty women from the adjacent villages so far. Praveen informs, “We have plans to recruit up to 250 women by the end of February 2019.”

The Happy Hands Project
The final dye

Praveen collaborated with designer Kathy Williams from Australia, an expert in natural dyes, for The Happy Hands Project. “We met at the Lakme Fashion Week and our aligned interests soon led to this project,” he shares. Praveen’s brand ‘Matr’ and Kathy’s brand ‘Because Of Nature’ joined hands with Bodhgaya Temple Trust for this project. “We received immense help from DM Abhishek Kumar Singh,” he mentions.

The Happy Hands Project
Founders Kathy and Praveen

About The Happy Hands Project

So what exactly is The Happy Hands Project? Handmade natural dyes are prepared from heaps of flower waste at the Bodh Gaya shrine by the local women. True to its name, the product is indeed curated in the tireless hands of women, whose lives have seen a ‘happy’ turnaround at the workshop.

The Happy Hands Project
Team ‘The Happy Hands Project’

“Mostly we find women in rural India opting for work in stitching and handicrafts. Gaya was no exception. However, our project opened up an entirely new professional dimension for them,” Praveen asserts. The working women are trained with precision before they dip their hands into the monumental heaps of marigold.

The Happy Hands Project
Festive flower decor at the Mahabodhi temple

Every day, especially during the festive months like now, the Mahabodhi temple records a footfall of thousands, from all around the world. Flowers are an integral part of offering prayers, and as a result, around 200 to 400 kgs of flower waste are generated daily.

The Happy Hands Project
Kathy (centre) training the women

After segregation, drying and processing, the flowers are ground into fine powder, from which the dyes are born. These then find their way to colour Khadi fabrics in earthy hues.

Who is Praveen Chauhan

Fashion designer Praveen Chauhan is not a new name in the domain of sustainable fashion. Nearly a decade ago, he decided to opt out of the glam and glitz of the fashion industry and find his inspiration among the forgotten textiles of India.

While the trend of eco-friendly clothing is catching up worldwide, Praveen believes the whole concept has its roots in India itself. “Yet we are drifting away from it, towards synthetic products,” he laments.

The Happy Hands Project
The women dyeing the clothes

The conscious designer and social entrepreneur has worked at the grassroots level, identifying traditional Indian fashion surviving dimly in scattered interior regions. His designs have found much acclaim at international fashion weeks and are representing ancient India in a new light to the world. Praveen latest venture is ‘Matr’ – a sustainable fashion brand to revive Khadi in Bihar, his birthplace.

The Happy Hands Project
A Khadi scarf after dying

“The artisans deserve all the credits”

The efforts of The Happy Hands Project have been recognised by the state government as well as national and international media. But for Praveen and Kathy, all that matters is saving the planet and the helpless lives on it. “I don’t want to take any credit for this project. To be honest, without our artisans we are nothing. They deserve all the credits,” shares Praveen. “Changing the lives of these women is the best award we could ever ask for,” he beams.


Also Read: When Drought Hit Their Husbands’ Jobs, These Feisty Village Housewives Stepped Up To Run Their Families

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns

Supporting Education Of COVID Hit Students

19,200 Raised
Out of 20,00,000

Share

Supporting Acid Attack Survivors During COVID

26,651 Raised
Out of 20,00,000

Share

Providing Clothes To Tribal Children

1,11,860 Raised
Out of 9,00,000

Share

Back To School : Supporting Rural Education

28,631 Raised
Out of 15,00,000

Share

Rahat COVID: Relief Work by Goonj

1,04,887 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

Share

No To Hunger : Free Meals To Underprivileged

5,87,014 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

Share

Provide Ambulance : Help Them Reach Hospital On Time

3,82,370 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

Share

Support Pranitha To Donate Oxygen And Ration Kits

8,35,618 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

Share

Project Annapoorna : Become A Hunger Warrior

7,582 Raised
Out of 1,50,000

Share

The Stray Project : A Thought Of Humanity

41,094 Raised
Out of 2,50,000

Share

Ended

Stand By Ladakh

40,962 Raised
Out of 1,00,000

Share

Closed

Support our Frontline COVID Warriors

25,615 Raised
Out of 5,00,000

Share

KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

97,02,146 Raised
Out of 1,00,00,000

Share

Campaign Closed
Brought machinery

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,544 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

9 Happy Fridges Installed
Ordered a minivan and sent for modification

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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Quote
It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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