Weddings can often drive families in rural India to financial ruin. This innovative initiative is reusing old wedding dresses to curb wedding expenses.
“I do not think about life, my struggle is to get one square meal a day. I have no idea how I will fund my daughter’s wedding. I have no steady source of income and the worry gives me sleepless nights,” says Radhika, a worried mother from the Dungi village in Uttarkashi. Her daughter was getting ready to get married in the next few days.
Radhika’s husband died four years ago, leaving her to fend for herself and their two kids. She struggled to make ends meet and was only able to educate her daughter till Class 12, and her son till Class 10. With the widow pension she received amounting to nothing, Radhika soon took to working as a daily wage labourer on farms. She earned just enough to keep the family afloat. When her daughter’s marriage was fixed, anxiety plagued Radhika, as concerns about funding her daughter’s wedding grew, day by day.
While weddings are about celebrating two individuals and families coming together, for most families in rural India, they spell financial burden.
Image Source: Wikipedia
In villages across India, where peoples’ actions are dictated by the intangible concepts of ‘honour’ and ‘dignity,’ weddings celebrations can often wreck financial hell in the lives of many. An old saying rightly says, ‘There is no end to how much you can spend on a wedding or on constructing a house.’
That’s why Goonj, an award winning voluntary organisation, decided to deliver Wedding Kits, made from wedding apparel and other new material collected from urban India, to women and families like Radhika’s in rural India.
A typical Wedding Kit includes the wedding dress for the bride and bridegroom, general clothing, footwear, purse, makeup box, cosmetics, jewelry, bed sheets and a set of utensils.
The initiative is a classic example of how small things can make a big difference. Goonj first collects the wedding apparel from cities and carefully sorts them out. It then puts together a collection of new, fancier clothes by modifying the material donated. The organisation does due diligence about the economic condition of the recipient families, and then distributes the Wedding Kits through the local Panchayats, giving rural brides and bridegrooms, as well as their families, the chance to wear new clothes and accessories.
Reena lives with her parents and three siblings in the village of Siyuna in Uttarkashi. As farm labourers, her parents struggled to provide for their children.
When Reena’s marriage was fixed, their joy was mixed with the worry of arranging funds for the occasion. Like most young girls, Reena too had great dreams for her wedding and, like most parents, her’s were also doing everything they could do to make the day a memorable one for her.
The Wedding Kits proved to be a boon for Reena:
“Before, my parents would have spent a large amount of money in renting out a lehenga and other bridal accessories from the market. Thanks to the Wedding Kit, they will no longer have to do that. And no lehenga in the market can be as beautiful as the one I got from Goonj,” she says.
“I did not have to spend a single rupee on any cosmetics as the Kit contained things that I could have never purchased in my life… I still use it and my friends say that it is different. These things are not available here in local markets.. That makes me happy” she adds.
The organisation also distributes Pandaal Kits, a collection of basics like utensils, blankets, daris, etc, in large quantities, to village communities.
These are then used by them during functions, and help reduce expenses to a great extent.
Weddings are made of sweet memories for all of us and that’s probably why most of us don’t part with our wedding dresses. No wonder then that Goonj finds it very difficult to get wedding lehengas from urban India. But the organisation has adopted a small Indian-style jugaad to fill this gap, a little spin to the connect the proverbial dots.
The organisation takes Mata ki chunni’s, the shiny pieces of cloth offered to the Gods, and stitches them together to make wedding lehengas.
It’s a sight to behold; and a pleasant surprise when you find that the beautiful lehengas you see at the processing centre have been created from what is given away in bulk at temples and religious functions.
So far, the organisation has delivered hundreds of Wedding Kits in Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, with more than 400 Kits being distributed in Uttarakhand alone.
Since Goonj doesn’t believe in charity, it encourages village communities to receive these kits after participating in developmental activities. Once a family uses the wedding dresses, the organisation suggests that they pass it on to others who need them as well.
So the next time you are dusting off your wedding apparel, think of contributing it to fulfill someone’s life dreams and saving a family from financial ruin.