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About Ruma Devi

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” Ruma Devi’s story as a woman artisan reflects such essence and vision of life. As a girl child, Ruma Devi’s life has been an arduous journey with various challenging situations. She lost her mother at the tender age of four years and with her father remarrying, she was then raised by her paternal uncle. Later, she had to drop out of school in class 8th and spend time in household chores and fetch water in a bullock cart for the family from a well at a distance of 8-10kms. When she got married at the age of seventeen years, life was even more challenging with the unstable financial condition of her husband’s family.

Although life was harsh, she spurned to accept that limited resources and opportunities at home were her destiny. And she conveyed her strong wish to bolster her family financially after the marriage. Being a school dropout, embroidery is the only skill she had acquired from her grandmother which she made her solidarity to battle against all the odds of the society. Determined to turn her only skill into her source of income, in 2006, Ruma Devi established a self-help group after convincing 10 women from her village. Initially, with a contribution of Rs 100 from each woman, they bought cloth, threads, and plastic wrappers for making cushions and bags. Fortunately, they found customers in the same village and that augmented her to scale up the production. Thus, she began her tremendous journey as a woman artisan.

Her constant determination and conviction enabled her acquaintance with GVCS in 2008 and eventually her vision to empower the women artisans was recognised and made her the President of GVCS in 2010.

With increasing responsibilities as President of GVCS, the main challenges faced by Ruma Devi while encouraging women of her region are from the customs of male-dominated society like the “Purdah” system which limits women strictly to their homes. In addition to this, the Policy Commission of India declared Barmer district as one of the most backward regions of India. Despite the limited resources of the region and social constraints, Ruma Devi with her strong will power rose against all the boundaries, came out of her home, and made an identity of her own. In the history of her region, for the first time, a woman did all the marketing of the handicraft products and achieved immense success. As the fashion industry is evolving, during that time getting into the fashion world was a matter of major concern for Ruma Devi. But with sheer courage and determination, Ruma Devi approached famous designers who acknowledged her work, talent and introduced her to the fashion world. In Rajasthan Heritage Week of 2016, for the first time Ruma Devi earned an opportunity to showcase her collections on the ramp, shinning out of all her adversities, she became an inspiration for many women of her region.

Acknowledging the talent of Ruma Devi, various designers and organisations approached her for handmade products. Gradually, she began developing her production on a large scale and created a variety of products in different categories broadening the scope of her reach in the fashion industry. This enabled many national and international designers to reach out to the women artisans of GVCS and associate with them for handmade production. Ruma Devi’s constant efforts and consistency in promoting the products nationally and internationally helped many women artisans of her region to get recognised for their talent and as well as earn their living.

Along with developing herself, Ruma Devi changed the lives of 22,000 women of 75 villages through GVCS, by conducting constant training sessions and supporting them to earn their own living through their talents. Various seminars were also organised by her on subjects like, female foeticide, suicide prevention and women empowerment to encourage women of her region to rise above the prevailing social constraints. Her hard work, determination, and vision were acknowledged and honoured by “NariShakti Award 2018” presented to her by the President of India on International Women’s Day on 8th March 2019. In the same year, she also won the “Designer of the Year” award on 15th July 2019 and celebrated as one of the famous designers of India. Appreciating Ruma Devi’s inspirational journey, she was invited to the special episode “Karamveer” in Kaun Banega Crorepati, on 6th September 2019. In the show, she was presented with the prestigious title “Karamveer” by the renowned actor, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, and in the presence of famous actress Sonakshi Sinha, for her commendable dedication for the betterment of the society.

An epitome and initiator of progress, Ruma Devi has been effective in enabling constant earnings for the artisans and their families. Her plan of action in the field of development has won her basic approval at the national and worldwide levels and has helped many women artisans to connect to new customers. A crusader for equity Ruma Devi today is the face of women empowerment and her story has roused various other ladies to stand up and question male predominance. Today, through GVCS, Ruma Devi promises a better future for the women and children of Barmer. She is the lady who learned to weave her dreams through constant efforts and supported many other women like her to do the same. She is one among the most honoured and celebrated designers of today, known for her talent, determination, and courage. “She believed she could, so she did.”