The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has recorded the second-highest unemployment rate in the country at 46 per cent. The successive lockdowns and clampdowns in the last three years have given a severe blow to the private sector, soaring the unemployment rate. Amid these repeated inconveniences, many have been trying to revive and boost their economic status in their capacities. Coming up with business strategies that would sustain the most unstable situations has become the utmost priority for such people.
One such individual is Zamruda Bano, from Kulgam district in Jammu and Kashmir, who has created a livelihood not only for herself but for others. This 60-year-old woman never had the chance to receive an education and yet she stands tall, providing jobs to 1,000 women. She had started the first centre in her village, gradually spreading to another. Over the years, Zamruda has established more than 100 centres, in scores of villages in Kulgam and Anantnag districts.
In these centres, women are engaged in crewel embroidery, chain stitching, and making crewel bags, curtains and other linens. Prices for these range from Rs 2,000 to Rs 20,000 and up. They get up to 5,000 orders a month.
Each centre accommodates around 10 to 20 women and girls, and they earn Rs 3,000 to 6,000 a month, depending on the output they provide.
Believing in ‘self-sufficiency’
Zamruda, who is also a mother of three daughters, learnt the art of crewel embroidery from her elders in her village. In 1991, soon after her marriage, Zamruda started training girls in several villages in South Kashmir to earn money through the art. In the same year, she had set up her first training centre. According to her, it takes around two to four weeks to learn this art.
“After learning the art, I did not limit it to myself. Instead, I taught it to more women who had very few avenues available to earn an income. I saw so many girls in our village sitting idle at their homes and facing financial constraints. That’s when the idea of teaching these girls came to mind,” says Zamruda.
Currently, when the Union Territory is sinking with growing unemployment, her initiative has been quite helpful for the women. Each month, she earns Rs 10-15 lakh, out of which she provides remuneration to the women working under her, including the cost of raw materials, clothes, wool, cotton and rent for the centres.
Zamruda believes in being self-sufficient and suggested that women and girls should come forward and start their own ventures to generate employment and profit at the same time. Through her centres, she aims to provide jobs to underprivileged women who were not fortunate enough to receive a proper education. She did not let lack of education become a reason to not have economic fulfilment.
“I was sitting idle after passing Class 10. My family could not afford to send me for higher studies due to financial constraints. In 2017, I got to know about this centre where I learnt how to make crewel cushions for a few weeks. Today I earn over Rs 5,000 per month,” says Arifa Jan, one of the girls from the Kulgam centres.
Zamruda adds that her journey to build a career as an entrepreneur was full of challenges. She says, “Setting up centres was never easy, especially at the early stage. I was facing financial problems and also looking for a market for these items. Everything, however, fell in place with my family’s support. My husband, a government employee, supported me at every step. Besides, I worked really hard in setting up these centres. At people’s request, I am now looking to expand such centres across Kashmir.”
The biggest advantage of these centres is that the women can work even during lockdowns or irrespective of any weather conditions. These centres are situated in the villages, where the women can sit and work together. “They don’t have to travel to work. The main reason behind setting these centres in their villages is that their families don’t feel insecure about sending them outside. Even during the pandemic, while maintaining protocols, most of our centres were running normally,” Zamruda adds.
Today, products from these centres are sent to Srinagar and several other parts of the country such as New Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bengaluru. Zamruda also owns a shop in Anantnag where she sells these products on her own.
Talking about how confident Zamruda has become in managing client relations and finances, she gladly says, “I attend to all my customers and also withdraw or deposit money on my own through an ATM or the bank.”
Unemployment rate of 46 per cent in stark contrast to govt claims, says NC; Published by New Indian Express on 20 March 2022
Written by Mudassir Kuloo (Charkha features); Edited by Yoshita Rao