ADITHI, an NGO, works predominantly with rural women and girl children in Bihar. The name stands for Agriculture, Dairying, Industries, Tree Plantation, Handicrafts, Handlooms and Horticulture and the Integration of women in the key economic sectors.
ADITHI and a group of women from Bhusura village in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar have created a livelihood option for the rural women of Bihar through this age old art form sujuni. The group, which is registered as a society named Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti (MVSS), was started by five women in Bhusara village but now has 600 women members who do sujuni art.
To make this art and their livelihood sustainable, these artists undertook a major experiment with Sujuni: moving away from the traditional stories of gods and goddesses, they began to create stories on the cloth with sujuni, depicting their experiences in a highly patriarchal and feudal society. The stories bring out imaginative and hard hitting experiences such as those involving widows who are not allowed to wear colours, mothers affected by deforestation and abused women rejected by families. The subject matter of these quilts also covers significant issues: e.g. a pictogram educating villagers about the spread of AIDS, storyboard narratives of the negative effect of dowry and bride burning on local women, illustration of villagers restoring polluted fishing grounds. These stories come directly from the village women who make the textiles, and are intended to educate – locally and globally – about the best and the worst of their collective experiences.
Viji Srinivasan, the visionary behind this organisation died in June 2005, but through her vision and the efforts of her organisation, she has challenged the political and social problems of Bihar and given new opportunity and meaning to the lives of thousands of village women. The textiles themselves are a living proof of the success of this project. Not only are they beautifully worked but they are full of the life of the people who made them, with a joyful freedom of design, and are the artistic expression of a community who are working together with shared ideals which are portrayed on the cloth.
ADITHI and this women group have been significant in improving the livelihood options of these women and also promoting a dying art form.