Dung to diyas — it's a cakewalk for rural women in Uttar Pradesh

About 150 rural women in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri district have come together to earn livelihoods from using cow dung to produce attractive eco-friendly products which are in high demand during the festive season. Details here.

Virendra SinghVirendra Singh   26 Oct 2022 4:20 PM GMT

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Dung to diyas — its a cakewalk for rural women in Uttar Pradesh

 Cow dung diyas are painted, polished and packaged in the workshop run by an SHG. All photos by Virendra Singh

Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh

A disability in her legs restricts 25-year-old Anuradha's movement and doesn't allow her to step out of her house in Lahorinagar village and earn a livelihood to become self-reliant. She has almost always been dependent on her bhaiya (brother) and bhabhi (sister-in-law) to support her financially.

But for the past three years, Anuradha is working-from-home and with an unusual commodity — cow dung — to earn up to Rs 300-400 a day.

"Sitting at home, I make diyas [handmade lamps] out of cow dung and supply them to a workshop nearby where they are polished and then sold... [During festival season] I can easily earn upto Rs 300-Rs 400 in a day," she told Gaon Connection.

According to her, working with a local self-help group (SHG), which trains rural women to make various products out of cow dung, has helped her earn dignity and self-reliance in life — something she had never imagined before in life. "It feels really good that I am able to contribute to my family's earnings and I have found a purpose in my life," Anuradha added.

The workshop where cow dung diyas are painted, polished and packaged, is run by an SHG named 'Mission Azad Hind'. Its founder informed that the group was formed in 2018 with just 10 women and it presently employs more than 150 women.

Diyas and idols are made out of cow dung.

The workers at the workshop, located about 130 kilometres from the state capital Lucknow, paint, decorate and package festive products like diyas, idols, and incense cones which are made out of cow dung, a commodity available in abundance in the rural areas.

"All our products are made out of cow-dung. Earlier, the same cow-dung, which was sold at a very cheap price in the villages, has now brought earning opportunities to these women. They use it to make diyas and idols which we then paint, process and decorate here at the workshop," Atul Verma, the founder of the self-help group, told Gaon Connection.

Also Read: Diwali 2022: Electric pottery wheels boost income of potters in Varanasi

Training at workshop & door to door pickup

At the workshop, which is located at the district headquarters of Lakhimpur Kheri, Reshu Verma trains the rural women in making marketable products from cow dung. The women mix water and cow dung with a binding agent known as gorgam, which also ensures that these diyas don't catch fire upon being lit.

Later, these diyas are dried in sunlight and supplied to the workshop at the district headquarters.

"We have trained these women from more than a dozen villages and now they are working from their homes and sending us the raw products which are then processed here in the workshop. We send our own labourers to collect their items made of cow-dung from their houses," Verma told Gaon Connection.

She also informed that these products are in great demand not only in Lakhimpur Kheri but in the nearby districts of Lucknow, Sitapur and they even get bulk orders from states like Delhi and Gujarat.

Water and cow dung are mixed with a binding agent known as gorgam to protect diyas from fire.

Also Read: Baghelkhand's unique tradition of Mount Govardhan and Janjuiya Devi Puja

Marketing cow dung products

Meanwhile, talking about the dynamics of the trade, Reshu Verma said that a diya which is made by the women is bought by the group at a price of a rupee per diya and is sold for seven rupees per piece in the market.

"We paint and process these diyas with a chemical otherwise the cow dung would burn if an oil wick is put into it. The chemical which is called gorgam ensures that these diyas don't catch fire," she added.

Meanwhile, a pair of Ganesh and Lakshmi idols, which is also made out of cow dung, is sold at a price of Rs 50 in which Rs 10 is provided to the woman who made it, Rs 10 is given to the woman who paints it while Rs 10 is spent on treating and decorating it.

'From boredom to self reliance'

Kiran Devi, a mother of two kids and also a graduate by qualification, shared with Gaon Connection that before joining the self-help group she found it distressing that her time was being spent unproductively.

"After sending my kids to school, I was left with nothing much to do but now after two years of making idols out of cow dung, I am happy that I am helping my husband in sustaining the household expenses," the resident of Fatehpur village said.

Women are working from their homes and helping their husbands in sustaining household expenses.

Likewise, Roli Verma, a graduate student from Singhari village, stated that she has been able to partially fund her education ever since she began working for the group.

"My father and my brother used to finance my education. But now, I can easily afford my fees, books and other personal expenses ever since I have begun making diyas out of dung. It feels really good to do so. It makes me feel a freedom that I had never felt before," she told Gaon Connection.

Neetu Kashyap, another resident of Singhari village has two cows in our household. "Their cow dung was being used mostly as a manure or fuel earlier but now I easily earn Rs 300 in a day by making diyas and idols. The good thing is that there's no investment needed in this work and there's no machinery involved," Kashyap said.

Also Read: The flower growers of Varanasi hope to see sales bloom during Diwali

#Diya #Festive Season #Uttar Pradesh #story 

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