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Updated: Sep 6, 2022

You’re minding your own business, reading at a cafe with a half-eaten sandwich and an endless Instagram feed to savour. Suddenly, a white blur emerges in the corner of your eye. It’s a pantsuit, elegantly cut, second only to the woman wearing it. Her hair is up in an expert chignon, gait quick and businesslike. Her back - industrious. You don’t hear her coffee order, but you can guess. Double espresso, no sugar. She makes a call while she waits, and you catch her mumble numbers of elephantine capacity. You watch her grab her order, look over her shoulder and mutter her thanks smilingly, as she glides out of the building, looking like a contemporary vision in white. You may not think of her again anytime soon, but you are impressed without realizing it. This is the self-empowered, modern day businesswoman. And what a woman she is.

They aren’t business-owners, they’re dukaanwaalis. Their business needs aren’t mature enough to require investors, but donors would be fitting. The picture painted, even after the beginning of economic revolutions like #VocalForLocal, is that of a woman, undereducated and far from the arbours of privilege, taking little barefoot steps up a ladder and just about reaching the trimmings of her potential. She scrapes what she can and makes a name for herself and yet, those of us who hold a degree or two treat the “poor thing” with mercy unasked, and the lack of seriousness that a city-dwelling woman would not entertain.

Fortunately, times are changing. Female entrepreneurs in villages are taking charge of their own narrative, and saying their piece the best way they know - through their work. The artisans of Project Purkul, a cloth-based handicrafts brand based out of Village Purkul, Dehradun, are no exception. They wish to be excluded from the “bechari” label, and say it like it is: that they are hardworking, competent individuals who are self-empowered and just as dynamic and relevant as the lovely women working in cities to bring about a transcendent change with their businesses. Here they stand, strong and smart and on their way to forging their own meaning of success. Here they stand, saying, “We belong here. We deserve this. We are getting there - just you watch.”

- Rhea Sharma

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