22-year-old Drishti Kharbanda has always been vocal about women empowerment and gender equity. During her first year at MCM DAV College for Women, she overheard certain conversations of a group of girls from her college. The girls seemed scared and were complaining about certain boys chasing and harassing them.
However, the girls preferred to ask boys from some other college for help rather than handling the situation themselves. The incident inspired Drishti to come up with her own NGO to help women and do something about the issue. She started with a WhatsApp group where she used to add all the girls she came across. Initially, the idea was to discuss the problems and find solutions together which later shaped into an all-women organization. Later, it got registered as an NGO named 'SARVANI' where around 125 girls were recruited.
"Sarvani is not only limited to just women. We are women made but we cater to the society irrespective of the gender including women, children, men and the economical sector and do our part. Women can do so much as well as grow and shine if given the right opportunities. Sarvani is that opportunity that women need to get empowered and voice their opinions and problems," Drishti told The Bridge Chronicle.
Sarvani was officially founded in 2018 and the main idea of the organization was to provide a platform which is easily accessible to all. It created a medium between women who can inspire each other with their unique yet similar stories and come together to give back to society. The mind behind this initiative, Drishti is one of the youngest woman founders in the country.
The main motto of Sarvani is "Bekhauff (fearless), Buland (elevated), Bebak (straightforward)." The name Sarvani has been derived from one of the 108 names of Goddess Durga which represents eternal and unconventional power. They started with solution-centric discussions and include art and poetry to spread the message. I chose this name because I believe that we are complete in ourselves and can solve our own problems. We don't require anybody else to do that for us," Drishti said.
Moreover, Sarvani has been conducting many activities throughout the year to spread awareness, learn new skills and initiate discussions on various topics. Some of the popular initiatives by Sarvani include Open Mic, Sarvani Talks, Sarvani Fera, Sarvani Flair and many others. They had also published a poetry book titled "Main Sarvani- Bekhauff,Buland, Bebak".
The organization recruits girls every year and this year they have already started their online recruitment process amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sarvani has also been working towards several environmental causes. One of the recent being the 'Trees for Tomorrow' campaign where they collaborated with different NGOs across India. The main focus of the campaign was to plant more trees to save fresh water and to attain a sustainable future.
The new initiative that Sarvani has been working on is the project named 'Women Made Craft', which focuses on employing the women artisans and handicraft workers in the country. The project strives to maintain the employment of these women artisans and provide them with a platform to showcase their talent and hard work.
"The idea behind Women Made Craft was to give women artisans and handicraft workers their power back. Various handicraft manufacturing companies hire these artisans in their workshop area and pay them on a salary basis but with Women Made Craft, we disintegrate our power. We find women from different areas like Bihar, Meerut and other parts of India and we design a particular product for them, and once it is ready we provide a market for them. Our main aim is to create women entrepreneurs where they will be able to monetize their talent while sitting at home," Drishti said.
"When our Madhubani artist Monalisa started making Madhubani printed masks, she received orders more than of what she could have made. So she started training girls on the art and now the students are helping her with some parts of the orders. However, we take really less share of the profits being a social enterprise while private companies take a huge share of the profit by overrating the products and paying a small amount to the workers. Our basic idea is to give profits to the people who are making it and empowering them with access and assisting them in product designs," Drishti added.
Under the project, the women are engaged in making various eco-friendly products like soy wax candles, terracotta soy candles, hand-painted mud kulhars and kulhar candles. They also make handcrafted wooden salt pepper stand, handcrafted combs, masks and tote bags. In the project's social media page, all the benefits and how the products are useful is also included along with the pictures to make the consumers aware of it.
Under this new initiative, women artisan Rukshaar, who is based in Patna has crafted India's first-ever turmeric dyed masks. The masks are reusable, has anti-biotic properties and comfortable to wear. "These turmeric dyed masks are more beneficial for the users than the usual coloured cotton masks because it's a natural substance having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can also be dyed at home. The upper layer of the mask is made of 100% cotton as it is skin-friendly, reusable and can be maintained easily," Drishti said.
Rukshaar, the woman behind these masks is a fashion designing student and she feels grateful to Sarvani for giving her this opportunity. "I prepare the mask by dying a white cotton fabric with pure turmeric powder without adding any bleaches, as the chitosan present in the fabric will block the protein entry (the outer body of the COVID-19 virus is made of glycoprotein). For the inner lining, I have used a thin cloth bag to make the mask more durable and protective," Rukshaar said.
"I am grateful to Sarvani for giving me this opportunity during such trying times and making my lockdown days productive. For me, it was both learning and earning process," she added.
Just like Rukshaar, Monalisa from Madhubani village in Bihar has been trying to revive the ancient Indian art form of Bihar through Women Made Craft. Madhubani art is a style of Indian painting, practised in the Mithila region of the Indian subcontinent.
"Sarvani's new initiative has been a boon for me during these unprecedented times where they have given us a platform and helped nurture our talent. I work on Mithila paintings which are an Indian art form from Bihar's Mithila region and I am glad that I got to nurture my talent through this project. I make Madhubani designs on a simple cloth mask which are now reaching people through Sarvani's social media platforms and we are getting a positive response," said Monalisa.
Drishti claimed to have sold 800 masks till now and is looking forward to getting more orders since they have just launched the products. She also said to have approached the wholesalers in Chandigarh's Panchkula region, where they gave them their work samples through which the project started getting ample orders.
"We are planning to launch the products on our website also for which more production is going on. Among the future initiatives of Sarvani, we are planning to come up with the second publication of Sarvani's poetry book. We are also planning to come up with a women series where we can call in women from all walks of life who have achieved success in life and talk about their experiences," said Drishti.