While looking for those working with craftspeople and artisans inPunjab, the then director of Punjab Tourism Board (2017) introduced me to Kiranji. She runs Balwaar Foundation fromher farmhouse situated in a remote area approximately 10 kms from the town ofSangrur, and about a kilometer from Hakikatpura village. Her husband’sancestral haveli is in Sangrur andher extended family has been into the royal armies and related to some through matrimonialties. Owing to the influential background, the family is known for its philanthropicendeavours.
Her family identified early on that the neighbouring village boys areencouraged to travel to bigger towns to get an education and subsequent jobopportunities, but girls are mentally conditioned to not study beyond a certainlevel. Thanks to patriarchal norms, these girls get trained to become potentialhousewives who do household and farm chores. Balwaar sponsors high schooleducation of such girls in the neighboring villages besides helping middle-agedand older women earn an extra income so they can support their families.
The Foundation useslocal crafts as tools to engage and empower women. Cross-stitch embroidery on amix of readily available fabrics to create high-tea linen is what Kiran ji started Balwaar with. Today, its portfolioconsists of rugs, khes and cushions,most of which are woven under her supervision at the farm. At the time ofwriting this piece, there were a few new looms being setup for regular trainingto be conducted, and consistent fabric production to be aided in the nearfuture.
I’m delighted to share that we sourced some locally produced khaddar (khadi) through the women whom she was in talks with for weaving in 2017, after which the same khaddar got incorporated in Balwaar’s collection. Now, Kiran ji and her army of women focus on weaving; be it fabric, khes or rugs, Balwaar can execute and sell them all.