Marketing the Mandal

Project RISHI works with a local women’s group to expand the geographic range their handwoven crafts can be sold in

In the field of work that Project RISHI performs, income generation and women’s empowerment are two of the most difficult areas to approach. But this hasn’t stopped the Berkeley chapter from working with the Mahila Mandal of Bharog Baneri, Himachal Pradesh to help the women achieve economic independence and entrepreneurial success.

UC Berkeley’s Women’s Empowerment Committee was first formed as a Clinton Global Initiative University project back in 2014. The founding members — Rupali Sood, Pooja Lalchandani, and Sanjana Sathya — wanted to address a major challenge in Bharog Baneri: the lack of empowerment for women. Although women receive an education up until high school, they are often not given the support and mentorship needed to enter a formal career. They often end up staying in the village as housewives, tending to their farms and caring for the home and family.

Nevertheless, the Mahila Mandal of Bharog Baneri offers an avenue for women to connect and collaborate on their common love of basket-weaving. Rita Rani, the leader of the group, was originally from a neighboring town before she came to Bharog Baneri to train women on the art of basket-weaving. Through her passion and leadership, the Mandal has expanded to almost 50 women. They now create multiple products such as baskets, coasters, and hats — all made from dyed date leaves.

Rita Rani and the Women of the Mahila Mandal with their Crafts

While their products are made with care and talent, they have not been able to make much revenue. They lack a steady market to sell their products to, largely due to the fact that other villagers themselves don’t have the disposable income to buy such “luxury goods.” Therefore, the vision of the UC Berkeley RISHI’s Women’s Empowerment Committee is to help connect these products to larger markets in India and the US. We hope to help them establish sustainable, long-term partnerships with markets so that they can achieve financial independence.

Author: Sanjana Sathya