Dr. Dipti Singh is a 37-year-old from Bihar – renowned as one of the most traditional regions in India. She grew up in a family of Eight, where along with her younger sisters, Dipti was considered a burden on society. Gender discrimination was rife, and Dipti remembers being pelted with stones by boys, often feeling too frightened to leave the house in the evening.With her father out of work and her sister suffering from polio, Dipti was sent away to a neighbouring state to live with her grandmother at a young age.
Talking of her childhood, Dipti comments: “I felt very insecure and unsafe as a girl growing up in India, especially as I wasn’t too familiar with the areas surrounding my village. Luckily, I had two incredibly strong and inspirational female role models in my family – my mother and grandmother.
“My mother was the driving force in my life. Her biggest wish was for her three daughters to receive a solideducation, despite members of the community teasing her and doubting that we would make it through school. She was determined to prove them wrong and fought anybattlethat she came up against.”
Against all odds, Dipti married, became a mother and achieved a wealth of personal goals. She proved her community wrong and studied a masters in Social Development and Health in Scotland, returning to India to work with different organisations in education, health and nutrition.
Dipti couldn’t forget the struggles faced by Indian women and girls as she was growing up. Determined to help others who were struggling, she established the Varanasi Weavers Foundation, a collective that employed men and women from weavers communities and gave them economic power.
This led her into her current role as programme manager at Rangsutra, a community-owned craft company in India that provides thousands of women with a steady and secure income. Dipti’s inspirational leadership and personal strength help to keep Rangustra’s craft workshops running smoothly as the 3,000 strong workforce, made up of 70 percent women, produces unique products and gains economic independence.
Dipti continues: “My dream is to make a difference to women’s lives in the community, just like my mother did with us, so that they can develop their own identity, self-respect and confidence in themselves. I want to empower women to transform their own lives.”
Dipti is passionate about helping women to become leaders. That’s why IKEA is supporting the Rangsutra craft collective where Dipti works, helping to change lives in rural India forever. She hopes to achieve social development through the economic empowerment of women.
IKEA has been forming partnerships with social enterprises like Rangsutra since 2010. Through Rangsutra, IKEA offers women the chance to learn new skills, earn a fair wage and support their families. Those with little or no experience can learn the art of stitching and embroidery, while other training on offer includes accountancy, logistics, social enterprise, product and design workshops. The programme aims to create female leaders and entrepreneurs, not just artisans.
Each year, IKEA works with and trains over 900 women with the social enterprise collection and more than 200 women are trained in the local production centres. The result is beautiful collections of unique, handwoven products, such as the latest HEMGJORD range, which is available at IKEA stores across the UK for a limited period this year.
Dipti concludes: “Through the programme, women are provided with invaluableskills, boosted confidence, a strong foundation for self-sufficiency and economic independence. In rural India, these are the most precious and powerful attributes for any woman to weave a positive future for herself.
“My message to women in India is simple. Right now, you may be living in a male dominant society, but the day will come when you will be followed by society.”