Jamia Bazaar: A story of empowering women

New Delhi: Stocked with craftworks for household items, locally made perfumes, various art works, mouth-watering cuisine and all the essentials of an everyday marketplace, the Jamia Bazaar is something more than just an ordinary fair. It has an emotion to describe, a tale to tell.

The bazaar now in its second year since its inception in 2011, provides a platform for the women of Jamia Nagar, in bustling south Delhi to not only showcase their talent but also provide provide them with tools to take a business forward.

Actress and social activist Shabana Azmi who inaugurated the 3 day bazaar that will end on February 13 says the event brought back memories of her father, poet Kaifi Azmi, who was involved in a similar work in the bylanes of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.

"I come from a small village of 540 people in Mizwaa, Azamgarh where women have made it large through such efforts. I`m amazed that today designers like Manish Malhotra are working with these women. It`s wonderful to see the spirit of enterprise in these women," says Azmi referring to her father`s NGO.

The actress pointed out that the bazaar "not only brought the women out of their shells but has also provided them with an opportunity to explore a new world by eliminating the middlemen. It`s a moment of happiness, smaller but significant, this step in the direction of empowerment of women."

The current Jamia bazaar has 34 stalls dedicated to arts and crafts and cultural stuff, designed by the women, in addition to 15 stalls of cuisines including the mouthwatering Kashmiri wazwaan, Mughlai food and other Indian recipes.

The crafts range from clothes for women, ornaments, embellishments, household decoration pieces, carry bags, locally made perfumes, toiletries and other household items and books .

Conceived by the NGO Centre for Equity and inclusion (Cequin) to provide a platform for women and girls of Jamia Nagar and help them find means of livelihood and a dignified life by providing training and eliminating the role of middlemen, the organisation is now working with more than 1000 households mostly below the poverty line.

"Given the conservative context of the community, cultural constraints and restricted mobility, enthusiasm and determination of all the participants which include more than 100 women is commendable," says Laura Prabhu, Director CEQUIN.

This year the NGO has collaborated with designers from National Institute of Design (NID) to prepare the women for product design and quality control through intensive workshop trainings and participative approach.

"Last year the designs were very basic with minimalistic and we wanted these women to expand their skills keeping the market into consideration. We therefore sought professional help this year and products have been created using bead work, hand Zari work, resham embroidery (needle work on silk). You can see the difference for yourself," says Sara Pilot, Chairperson, CEQUIN.

"There will be difficulties; they`ll have to be resolved through effort," says Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Farooq Abdulllah who visited the fair.

One of the success stories from the bazaar is that of a Muslim migrant from downtown Srinagar. Shareefa Nasir, who migrated to Delhi in early 1990s. Shareefa has a family to look after including a differently- abled 10 year child.

"Initially there was no source of income for me. I wondered what to do. My skills in craft and needle embroidery were the only thing I brought with me. But then I didn`t know how to polish this talent and earn a living from it. That`s when Cequin came to my rescue," says Nasir.

"Shareefa started putting up her designs and last year she participated under the brand of Cequin. And this year we are amazed to see that she has put up her own stall under her own brand," points out Laura Prabhu.

While Delhi remains cold and pleasant Jamia Bazaar is bustling hot with visitors. The works are not restricted to Jamia Nagar, they also come from as far as Jalalabad in Punjab and other parts of the country. The organizers have already decide to expand the bazaar to NCR.

"The idea is not to restrict this bazaar to just one community or one religion, we aim to keep it open for others who want to explore the potential of the bazaar for their enterprise and if we are helpful in that endeavor it`ll make us all the more happy. Jamia bazaar can be a representative of them all," says Prabhu.