It was in 2009, when her daughter studied in a Waldorf-inspired school, that psychologist Nirupama Rao understood the significance of handwork: crochet, macramé, and the like. As a Waldorf parent, she also picked up craft that she had done as a child, even as her children were introduced to knitting, and crochet.
Now, that skill has helped women of a Mumbai basti create a new livelihood for themselves. Through Prafulta, a Mumbai NGO that works on psychological wellness of communities, Nirupama works on a project that brings together women to create macramé products, while allowing them the space to have meaningful conversations that spark change, in a sort of “macramé pe charcha” model.
“Sometimes, when we just give a lecture, the women are not too motivated. As their hands are busy, they are more likely to share, and open up,” she says.
The project has already trained eight women, and is now in the process of training eight more. “It’s a projection technique, as we call it in psychology,” she says. “When the hands are busy, people feel freer to talk. In this project, for example, after they understand the basic knots, the women are already contributing to discussions while their hands work.”
The products—ranging from bottle slings to car diffusers—are created by the women, after a brief training. Eight women have completed the training and eight more are undergoing the training. Many of the women hail from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and have done some embroidery or other handwork earlier.
Inspiration for design comes from many places. For Club Artizen, Nirupama and the women created bottle slings and plant holders.
Nirupama envisions the project as more than just a space for casual conversations. She aims for it to be a platform where women are empowered emotionally and financially. The journey of creating beautiful macramé products becomes a pathway to self-discovery and independence for these women.
As the project continues to evolve, Nirupama remains committed to its growth and impact. Through the art of macramé, she aspires to build a community where women not only share stories and skills but also find empowerment in its truest sense.