There is a Chinese proverb “Women hold up half the sky”, which means women comprise half the population and when given the chance they’ll definitely prove to be the best. This we can very well see in the story of Anita Gupta who fought all odds and established her NGO Bhojpur Mahila Kala Kendra with a single goal of educating and financially empowering women. Anita Gupta from Arrah had been facing problems that are deeply rooted in the history of Patriarchy. After her father passed away, she and her mother moved in with her maternal grandfather. She says his three sons had passed away in their teens, and to continue his lineage, he had purchased a young girl from her parents. She would bear his children and look after the house, cook, clean, and be assigned to all such chores. Even a small mistake would earn her a cruel beating from the patriarch, this made Anita realize that education is an important weapon to beat cruelty. Her family wasn’t supportive of this idea. After her schooling was complete, they placed several restrictions on her, telling her she couldn’t step out of the house and that she would be beaten if she tried to study further.
With full confidence, she set forth to teach herself stitching and tailoring and used her earnings to sponsor her education. Rejoicing the independence that earning for herself brought her, Anita decided to spread the word around her neighbourhood — she would teach sewing and embroidery to any interested woman.
Today, with her NGO Bhojpur Mahila Kala Kendra (BMKK), she has empowered one lakh, women, by offering them free of cost training to make handicrafts, of which 10,000 are now financially independent. In 1993, with two students under her wing, she put up a board advertising the BMKK, to encourage more women to learn these skills for free and become financially independent.
Her biggest challenge was the ongoing family opposition. But she continued working. The other challenge was convincing women to participate since they also faced similar opposition. Their families would discourage them, asking, ‘What odd things will you go out and learn?’ and ‘Why do you need to do all this?’ They also raised eyebrows since the woman would be walking alone to reach Anita’s house. More and more women started joining her, and in 2000, Anita registered BMKK as a non-governmental organization. During this time, she provided free training to over one lakh women in tailoring, embroidery, ornament making, and creating handicrafts like hand puppets, soft toys, dolls, and more. These are then sold at local stores and markets, and the women also take part in exhibitions throughout the country. Today, 10,000 of these women are financially independent. Around 6,000 of these women have also acquired Artisan Identity Cards from the Handicrafts Department and can now sell their products at all handicraft fairs and government events free of charge. It’s also easier for women with these cards to take loans to start their businesses.
According to Anita every woman should study and be self-sufficient. This way, she can rely on herself to feed herself, educate her children, and look after other expenses. Giving women the skills and support to be financially independent is her lifelong goal.
For her efforts, Anita was awarded the Nari Shakti Puruskar by President Ram Nath Kovind in 2020. It’s her continuous efforts that have brought her this far. This, she believes, is also the answer to challenging a patriarchal society.