Dhaani: Thoughtful evolution from ANHAD
ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy) is an Indian socio-cultural organization established in March 2003, as a response to 2002 Gujarat riots. Professional activist Shabnam Hashmi, sister of the slain activist Safdar Hashmi and founder of SAHMAT, Marxian historian Prof. K N Panikkar and social activist Harsh Mander are the founding members of ANHAD.
Based in Delhi, ANHAD works in the field of secularism, human rights and communal harmony. ANHAD’s activities include secular mobilization, sensitizing people about their democratic rights as enshrined in Indian Constitution, research and publication of books and reports, welfare programs for marginalised sections of society, launching creative mass mobilization campaigns. People’s tribunals It also work as a pressure group among political circle to take action against communalism ANHAD plays a major role in Gujarat to fight against human right violations as well as in the Kashmir Valley.
The birth of DHANNI
When ANHAD began flood relief work in rural areas of Bihar way back in 2008, the organisation had little inkling that this was the beginning of a long lasting relationship with the region and its people.
Once the relief work was over, ANHAD returned to the villages, not with supplies, financial aid, or quick-fix solutions but with a plan. With over 70% migration of the men folk in search of work to cities and towns, the villages mainly had women, children and old people, when Anhad team visited them.
Our plan was meant for women of the most marginalised communities. It was a simple one -impart literacy and vocational training to the women and transform them into an economic work force capable of taking care of their own needs.
Anhad volunteers travelled from village to village organising meetings, distributing leaflets and later setting up women empowerment centres in 13 villages. The process of expanding to 13 villages took two years. ANHAD managed to engage numerous rural communities in the districts of Araria and Purnea and successfully trained over
Five hundred women in the skills of weaving mats, durries and making jute products. The produce began to be sold in the local markets and for the first time in their lives, these women were earning a livelihood, outside of labouring in fields.
The money these women were making was important. Imagine a sixteen year old girl, with a pitiable educational background, and dependent on the male earners in her family for her livelihood, contributing to the family’s income.
Suddenly her life’s reins were not in the hands of the male members only. She has a voice now. Or take the case of a thirty year old mother of eight children. Her husband’s income has always been barely enough to feed so many mouths, but with her earnings, she can afford to send her kids to school. These subtle changes become more significant when one realises that these regions are still in throes of some of the most stringent conservative attitudes towards women.
Last year the need was felt for the produce of these women to reach out to a larger market. ANHAD realised, that being basically a human rights organization, it needed help to expand and involve marketing professionals.
A group of young film makers ‘Progressive Films’ and internet marketing company ‘Reprise Media’ stepped in to help us to expand the work so that more women could be included in the livelihood activities and those already involved should start earning better wages. Now an additional line of products ‘Dhaani’ has been designed by professionals and new materials have been introduced to the inventory - cotton, linen and silk. The product line has also been increased and now includes cushion covers, stoles, kitchen linen, in addition to the bag and mats already being produced.
To engage the new age digital customer base, Dhaani has partnered with www.zarood.com to offer its range of products like Jute Bags and Cushion Covers. The endeavour is geared to making sure that the women can take back more so that hopefully one day their lives will mean more than being just daily wage farm labourers. It’s a humble effort, still fledgling, and needs support from various quarters