Noor: Bringing a new light into lives of women from Basti Nizamuddin

By Nita Khan, TwoCircles.net,

New Delhi: Her delicate fingers expertly cut the paper to bring out a magical jaali which is then put on to a harder paper to turn into a captivating greeting card. She is still shy to talk but her work speaks for her.

She is one of the 10 girls and women at Basti Nizamuddin area in the national capital. These women are trained in the near extinct art and craft of paper-cutting that was introduced to create income generation opportunity, a means of empowerment. And the girls and the women from the conservative ambience lapped up the opportunity.


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The idea was simple. They need not go far from home – in fact, they do part of their work from their homes too – and yet, be involved in an inspiring and meaningful activity. ‘Noor’, a self help group of women for the marketing and promotion of products has brought a new light into their lives, literally.

It started in 2009. These young girls and women from the Nizamuddin Basti were trained in the traditional art of paper cutting, under the guidance of master craftsman. The 10-day training module was followed by two hour practice sessions.

The workshop location was the South Gate of Humayun’s Tomb and the motifs were drawn mainly from the decorative elements and jaali designs of the monument. “This created linkages between the people with the historic monuments in their vicinity and it provides them with means of income,” said an official associated with the project.


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Fehmina, who goes by single name, is part of the self help group under Noor Craft Centre. She tells about the first training session for what is called ‘Sanjhi’ art – the name for this paper cutting style. The design elements and motifs were drawn from the local monuments. And the result was: Stunning note books, greeting cards, lamps and other items.

These have been developed into daily use and gift products to make the venture economically viable. “We take our products to Dastakaar, Delhi Haat and other such fairs/exhibitions,” Fehmina says.


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Needless to add, the women are happy with the income generation. They take home upward of Rs 5,000 per month. Ranging between Rs 25 and Rs 2,000, these products have found many takers.

This programme for women is part of the larger vision of the AKTC project to conserve and develop the three presently segregated albeit historically connected sites of Humayun’s Tomb, Nizamuddin Basti and Sunder Nursery into one cohesive and integrated complex. The Urban Renewal initiatives include conservation of monuments, renewal of surrounding spaces and environment and (implementing) sustainable socio-economic development to improve the quality of life of the resident community. Noor and other programmes for women is part of this initiative that has helped more than 200 women overall.


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And the efforts are paying off. Last year’s AKTC annual report recorded: “The impact of these programmes has been that of the 200 + women trained, most of them are linked to a savings programme through self help groups and this has had a positive impact on the household economy. … … The 10 girls and women in the Noor Crafts Centre began retailing their products since 2011. This investment is seen to enhance the annual family income by several thousand rupees, which translates into an at least 40 % increase in the family incomes.”

These products are regularly taken to various exhibitions, Haats, Diwali Melas and also will be displayed and sold through a souvenir shop at the Humayun’s Tomb.

(Photos courtesy: Humayun’s Tomb – Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Initiative )

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