Empowering rural women, the Plumtales way

Initiated by a Canada-returned Indian social activist-cum-businesswomen, the Kuhu Enterprises is making women in rural areas of Haryana learn the art of `amigurumi,’ (creating soft toys), reports Rajendra Khatry

Slowly but surely, Kuhu Enterprises, through its Plumtales ‘amigurumi’ (soft toys) training to women, is making an impact in several Haryana villages. Empowerment of rural women is the driving force behind the project. The Kuhu Entrprises is trying to make women self-dependent by learning the crochet art and making a good earning out of it while working from their homes.

Initiated by Rupali Saini, a Canada returned Indian social activist-cum-businesswomen, the Kuhu Enterprises is making efforts to make the women in rural areas of Haryana learn the art of ‘amigurumi,’ a technique used to make small stuffed toys through crocheting or knitting and marketing them to earn money. (Amigurumi’ is a Japanese term, based on a traditional old Japanese art.)

A visit to the Manak Tabra village in Panchkula district of Haryana saw women engaged in making Amigurumi soft toys. Payal Dhiman, one of the village workers said they used to be exploited earlier by people in making durries (cotton carpets) and paid very little. It used to take a month or so for making the carpets, but they were not even paid 500 for it. But now they are earning around 3000-3500 per month by making soft toys.

According to Payal Dhiman, there are four women in the Manak Tabra village who are engaged by Kuhu Enterprises, including Pooja, Sulochana, Sunita and herself. “All the materials are provided by the Kuhu Enterprises which also markets the toys after paying us the making charges which adds up to more than 3000 per month.’’ There are two more villages nearby where a total of 18 women are engaged in the same art work of making Bunny Rattles, elephants, ziraffes, rabbits, pencil toppers, snails etc.

Rupali Saini says her endeavor is to make a difference in Village Woman’s lives. She said registered under the Ministry of Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), Government of India, her project is approved by Department of Industries & Commerce, Haryana (DIC), Govt. of Haryana and Office of Development Commissioner, Haryana.

Explaining the concept, Rupali Saini says the Kuhu Enterprises sells an amigurumi via its Plumtales Boutique in India. They also participate in exhibitions to market the product. The money generated goes in rural women getting a secure income to support their families. “We are trying to empower women by imparting crochet training, giving tools and quality raw material to be able to make marketable products locally in the rural area. We are working hard to ensure regular employment and sustainable livelihood for women from rural areas,’’ says Rupali.

Rupali says it is not a NPO (non-profit organization) endeavor and she is also not a member of any fair trade organisation but is using a global model to pay fair wages to women in rural areas. All artisans, work out of their homes as it allows them to take care of their families and homes as well.

All working materials and tools are provided by Rupali’s Kuhu Enterprises. She even conducts a 2 week training workshop in villages where the artisans refine their crochet skills, learn new amigurumi techniques and mainly give them support and self confidence to work on a project that has life changing meaning for them. “We are now trying to spread our  activities to more villages to help a larger section of women,’’ says Rupali Saini.

In fact working shoulder to shoulder with ‘new mass movement’ against plastic use, Kuhu Enterprises has come up with a range of eco-friendly and handmade crochet toys.

According to Rupali Saini, most children’s soft toys are flimsy throwaways made of fur, plastic parts and chemical dyes that could pose a risk to children’s health. By opting for Plumtales ‘Hand Crocheted Toys’ that are made of natural cotton yarn, one can invest in something safe, durable and eco-friendly that your children can enjoy for years.

“We work with rural women crochet artisan to contemporise and showcase their beautiful work to the world. Ultra-premium materials and quality craftmanship combined with renowned amigurumi designs make these toys a perfect cuddly companion for all ages,” she says.

“I believe social businesses can help change the world. I, not only as a maker, but also as a consumer, wanted to support products that had soul and a purpose behind. At Kuhu Enterprises we ensure that all products are not only safe for kids but also safe for our environment. All products are 100 per cent hand crocheted with high quality cotton yarn. When your child don’t want the toy anymore, you can reclaim yarn from a toy and reuse it in any craft that involves yarn — thus zero wastage.”

Rupali Saini says in an effort to revive this dying art of crochet, they have started tying up with schools in the tricity. “True social and environmental change begins within the walls of our schools and inside our classrooms. When students are able to visually see the handmade toys and products and know how they are being madeby the women artisan by using eco-friendly material, it creates awareness and motivation to engage in environmentally friendly behaviour around the school and possibly in their homes and other communities,’’ she explains.

“Saupins School Chandigarh and Mohali is the pioneer in teaching children this art, followed by two more schools in Mohali. We are greatful to the school’s management for making us a part of their annual school festivals in December 19,” she says.

She says her organisation is also getting in touch with few other schools now to launch crochet as a part of curriculum from the upcoming session. The practicing of crochet is not only meant to provide just a pleasant past-time but to specifically help the young child to develop a healthy imagination and harmonize his unfolding will and feelings in life. The reason for this is based on one of the fundamental precepts of true teaching, namely that when we engage the child in physical, practical activity, such as Crochet or Craft work, we are working on the ‘soul spirit nature’ of that child, she says. Incidentally, impressed by the work for women empowerment through skill development, the Kuhu Enterprises was also nominated for the National Entrepreneurship Award 2019 organised by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India.