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Jayati Godhawat

JWB Blogger

Deepa Mathur Talks To JWB About Empowering Rural Women & More

  • JWB Post
  •  March 30, 2016


Married away at a tender age of 19, Deepa Mathur, is now an entrepreneur and a social activist working for the empowerment of rural women living in Rajasthan.

She is the owner of Saarvantam Exports and dealing in handicrafts and handlooms. She is also the founder and Chairperson of an NGO QUALIS (Quality of Life Improvement Society) aimed towards the upliftment of rural women through better education and skill development.

Here’re some excerpts from our interaction with her:

Education and Marriage:

I did my schooling from the Sophia School. I was a very active student, both in academics and extra-curricular activities. I was awarded a gold medal in class 10th and 11th for my studies, then served as the Finance Minister of the school, and was one of the toppers in Rajasthan Board. I was also selected for the Basketball at the national level but couldn’t play.

However, when I was in the second year of college, my parents got me married. I had my first child when I was just 20. I would think that I got married way too early and that all my skills and education would go in vain. However, my husband Rajeev Mathur and my mother have been the biggest support in my life. With their cooperation, I completed my masters after the marriage and did a correspondence design course from the reputed NIFT.

Inception of Her Company & Struggles Associated

I started my career as a News Reader and anchor at Doordarshan. Simultaneously, I started writing for the newspaper columns. This continued for seven years. Meanwhile, I took up few projects for stall designing, fabrication, etc.

One day, a designer friend from Greece, Anthi Lukenio, suggested me to start my own business. And that’s how Saarvantam Exports came into being in 2000. Rajeev was very supportive. He helped me at home, in raising our child, and also at work. I was the first in our family to start a business. Everyone else was in the service sector. So, it was kind of tough to juggle between my work and home. At work front too, there were lots of challenges even though the response was good, and I had developed a good customer base. It took some time to get other things on track. 

The Idea of QUALIS Came Along

As I was dealing in handicrafts and handlooms, my work base was mostly in the rural area. My priority was to provide jobs to women, and so, I was in constant touch with them. After some time, they started coming up to me seeking solutions for their family, medical, financial, and other issues. I would advise and help them by whatever means I could.

I have 80 looms in Khatoon, and there is a large number of women workers. It wasn’t possible to help them all individually. Hence, Rajeev advised me to start an NGO. I registered QUALIS in 2007, and we work pan Rajasthan. We have over 400 members now.

My central vision with QUALIS was to educate women and develop their skills in various fields so they can be financially independent. I believe Economic Empowerment is the best way to empower women, and, education or possessing of skill or set of skills through which they can earn is imperative for their economic independence.

Working so closely with the people of villages, I realised that the school dropout rate is so high because of reasons like financial constraints, the family’s unwillingness towards girl education, etc. Most of them don’t even know how to read. 

Another major issue in villages is the mindset of women who believe that men are superior to them while the truth is women are the bread earners. Crafts like embroidery, pottery, knitting, etc. are handled by women. The rural industry is surviving on women. I am not in favour of ranking one gender superior to another. I don’t believe that men are lower to women or vice-versa. For me, Women Empowerment is giving females the liberty to do whatever they want to do. If a woman is an MBBS, but she decides not to be a doctor but a homemaker, it’s her choice. She shouldn’t be forced. Likewise, she shouldn’t be forced to sit at home and not continue her studies. 

Work of QUALIS

The first thing we focus on is equal pay. People working for me are paid equally regardless of their gender. Through QUALIS, we carry out various campaigns and initiatives for the rural women. Our campaign ‘Each one Teach one’ is aimed towards the generation of funds for the village girls’ education. Our upcoming campaign ‘RANG’ targets children in rural areas and is intended towards raising awareness about nutrition and hygiene.

We organise various medical camps to promote awareness about diseases, pregnancy, and family planning, etc. We conduct bank visits for women to impart knowledge about banks, safe deposits, safe investments, etc. Different skill development classes on dancing, nursing, music, drama, etc. take place on a regular basis.

I started with my second company Studio Fair Trade to ensure fixed and perpetual funds for QUALIS. A certain percentage of its profits go towards educational activities of girls.

Advice to Women

I just want to recommend every woman to help at least one another woman. It’s not necessary to associate with any NGO. Even if they help and solve issues of their maids, or their children, or any other woman, it is enough. Empowerment should be positive and contagious. Every woman should pledge to help one another, and it shall grow multifold. Also, I would want women to change their perspective on Modernity. Modernity is not about the clothes you wear, the language you speak, etc. Rather, it is about the positive mindset towards the growth of self and others.

Deepa Mathur has been awarded many times for her outstanding work towards upliftment of rural women. She won the Women’s Icon Award by Jayoti Vidyapeeth Women’s University and Heart of Gold by FM Tadka. She has been honoured by “Tamanna Udaan Ki” and “Raj Media Times”, and “Business Rankers Award”, as well.

She is an untainted reflection of what a strong woman should be. She inspires other women to come forward and realise their true potential.

As we bid her goodbye, I realised,

Women need to work like ants. Bit by bit, patiently they have to work together and co-dependently towards women growth and empowerment to ensure equality.

P.S.: If you wish to contribute in any way to QUALIS, contact 9828102330/9828602323.



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