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When Jamia Nagar women came out of burqas to showcase talent

Tuesday March 15, 2011 05:24:38 PM, Nivedita Sharma, IANS

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New Delhi: Sara Pilot says she was amazed at the response to the just-concluded Jamia Bazaar after her effort to provide a platform to the underprivileged women of Jamia Nagar, who came out of their burqas to showcase their talent, turned out to be a roaring success with the participants earning good profits. The two-day exhibition, organised by Sara Pilot and Lora Prabhu, her partner at the NGO Centre for Equity and Inclusion (Cequin), concluded Monday at the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC).

"I am amazed at the response on the first day. There was no vacant seat and people were cheering the ladies with applause and whistles when they walked the ramp (at a fashion show held as part of the event)," Sara Pilot, the wife of Minister of State for Communications and IT Sachin Pilot, told IANS in an interview.

Some of the highlights of the exhibition were embroidered kurtis and salwars, beaded bags, artefacts and other accessories made by the women of Jamia Nagar, which lies in the lee of the prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia university, and is dominated by Muslims. Sarah Pilot even proudly displayed some of the garments.

"The women of this area have never attempted to test their entrepreneurial skills, especially in hand-embroidered items. Jamia Bazaar is the first such effort in the inclusive process and we did it successfully," Sara Pilot said.

"The prices were kept minimal to get the best response from the public. There was no cost for putting up the stalls. The fabrics and materials used for making the garments were hand-made; so the commercial viability factor was always there. Whatever money we generated from the exhibition will go directly to the women of Jamia Nagar," she said, adding the prices were kept between Rs.50 and Rs.800.

"This is the first time that women and girls of poor households of Jamia Nagar got an opportunity to come out of their burqas and showcase their talent. I was surprised to see their enthusiasm.

"Yes, there were some initial hiccups, but the girls, especially from Muslim community, were so excited that eventually their parents allowed them to be a part of this venture," said Sara Pilot, who belongs to an influential political family.

Her father Farooq Abdullah, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, is currently the minister for new and renewable energy in the cabinet of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Her brother Omar Abdullah is the present chief minister of the state.

Jamia Bazar also took care of people's taste buds as there were food stalls selling mouth-watering kebabs and biryani.

Not only that, young girls were offering services like mehendi, tattooing and nail art.

The participants were quite enthusiastic about the whole exercise as they learnt quite a few business tricks over the two days.

Esha Rani, who had a stall there, shared her happiness, saying: "Inshallah! Everything happened very smoothly and we were delighted to be part of Jamia Bazaar. It gave us exposure and also an oppportunity to learn marketing skills, especially on how to negotiate."

"We sold around 50 kurtis and a dozen salwar suits. Yes, the bargaining for the garments was always there, but it was a profitable business. I earned Rs.50 per piece. If given a chance, I will definitely participate next time as well," she added

Another participant, Zaiba, said: "The first day proved fruitful for me as I sold more than 65 earrings and neck pieces and that also at market prices. The second day was a bit low on business, but there was no loss."

Preeti Rathia, a beautician in Jamia Nagar, thanked Sara Pilot and Lora Prabhu for providing such a platform, saying: "Logon ne hamari kalakaari ko itna nawazza. (People really appreicated our work.)."

A visibly pleased Sara Pilot said: "The long-term vision for this project is to make a conscious effort to break out of gender stereotypes and with the support of the Jamia women, we did it gracefully."

Her husband, Sachin Pilot, was also there to encourage her, saying: "I am proud to see Sara involving herself in such a noble cause and supporting the ladies of Jamia. It's heart-warming to see these ladies congratulating me for Sara's and Lora's work."

Jamia Bazaar was also an attempt to encourage more and more people to visit the neighbourhood.

"People do not go to Jamia Nagar for food or shopping, especially after the recent activities attributed to terrorists," said Lora Prabhu.

Sara Pilot, who is also the sister of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, concurred. "For hand-embroidered salwars or delicious biryani, Delhiites prefer Chandni Chowk."

(Nivedita Sharma can be contacted at








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