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Rangoli, an all-women initiative to empower rural women in Bihar’s Madhubani

An NGO has helped set up all-women multi-purpose shops in villages of Bihar’s Madhubani district. Supported by a Japanese firm, the initiative aims at financial independence and empowering rural women. While allowing young women the freedom to buy articles of their choice, including sanitary napkins, women running these shops earn Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 monthly.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2017 10:02 IST
Reena Sopam
Reena Sopam
Hindustan Times, Madhubani
all-women shop,Madhubani,women empowerment
Bhawna Jha (right) who owns and runs one such Rangoli shop in Saurath village of Bihar’s Madhubani district. (HT photo)

Rangoli - Mahilaaon ki Satarangi Duniyaa - is a unique multi-purpose sales outlet by the women, for the women and of the women in Bihar’s Madhubani district.

These all-women shop, owned and run by women, are aimed at empowering women, by helping them attain financial independence. They not only handle sale and purchase, but also maintain cash registers.

The Rangoli outlets may appear like any other rural household from a distance, but one can find anything from a hairpin to a dress material once you step in. Among some other items available here are undergarments, bangles, hair oils, talcum powders and woman personal care products, including sanitary napkins.

A Rangoli shop in a Madhubani village. ( HT photo )

“Women in general and schoolgirls in particular find the Rangoli outlets most beneficial, as they come to get sanitary napkins, etc. which they are otherwise reluctant to purchase from shops, having male salesperson,” said Bhawna Jha, 38, a matriculate, who owns and runs one such shop in Madhubani’s Saurath village, nearly 175 kms north-east of Patna.

“It has changed my life. Now, I earn Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 a month,” she added.

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The first Rangoli outlet came up in 2012 at Saurath village, which has a population of 10,000 (approx). Later such shops opened at 28 other villages, including Loha, Kapileshwar, Pakhrauni, Bakhari Tol, Dhanga and Dumra. More such outlets are lined up now.

A local NGO, the Drishtee Foundation, supported by Japan’s Ricoh Company Limited, is driving the initiative. Instead of providing them with initial seed money, the NGO helped rural women set up the shop by providing them shelves and various women-related products. The total investment for setting up one such shop is Rs 25,000 (approx). Those running these shops have to refund the money to the NGO in two years while continuing to enjoy revolving credit facility.

Women run the multi-purpose Rangoli shops in Madhubani. ( HT photo )

“Considering the practical difficulties faced by women, we planned to open an all-women shop in every village. Later, we may also try to manufacture locally sanitary pads, etc. They will be much cheaper and will also generate employment for rural women,” said Anjani Kumar Jha, coordinator of Drishtee Foundation.

He, however, was averse to the idea of having more than one such shop per village, otherwise it could lead to bitter professional rivalry among villagers. “Most of the Rangoli outlets were opened on a trial basis, but they are now being run successfully and earning good money,” added Jha.

Bipin Bihari Jha, also of Drishtee Foundation, said: “Earlier, women had to cover more than two kilometers and visit Madhubani or Rahika market for shopping. Now they get commodities of choice at Saurath itself,” he signed off.

First Published: Jul 14, 2017 10:02 IST