Nirmaan (“Creating”) is one of the oldest artisan groups. Its history is a story of movement from dependence to independence. In 1994, the artisans began to work for MarketPlace under the auspices of the nonprofit SHARE. When the cooperatives were re-organized as independent entities, Nirmaan was headed up by Abdulbai. A year ago, when Abdulbai moved to the MarketPlace design department, management of the group was taken over by the artisans themselves. The Nirmaan artisans are proud to be one of only two groups making knit garments, work which requires special sewing machines and additional skills.
Dhangauri has been an artisan with Nirmaan for over fifteen years. During that time, she has shown that she is a talented and dedicated worker. She also demonstrated leadership potential, with a flair for both management and conflict resolution. Her first leadership position was as supervisor of the embroidery artisans. In April 2017, she will take on even more responsibility as she assumes management of the entire group. This demanding position involves ordering all the raw materials, planning production, adapting production plans, managing finances and determining work distribution.
Life at Nirmaan can be very lively. Years of exposure to educational programs, activism, and leadership training have produced a group of strong and assertive women. Sometimes there are clashing opinions, but the artisans draw on their extensive experience and training to come up with creative solutions to conflicts. They always remember that the goal is to support and improve themselves and their group.
Other groups look up to Nirmaan as a long-time success story, and the Nirmaan artisans are always ready to help with advising and supporting newer, less-experienced groups. They also mentor new members of their own group, helping them to increase their speed and improve product quality – thus earning more.
The artisans at Nirman may argue at times, but they are also very close. They plan festival celebrations and support each other in times of trouble. They take pride in their hard work and in coordinating their production to be more efficient. But they also know when and how to be flexible: “I am really grateful to the other members to agree to allow me to come an hour later so that I could complete all the housework and take my son to school before coming to work. I could not have been able to continue working if they had not been supportive and I am the sole breadwinner in my family,” says Sunita.