Tag Archives: Empowerment


The most beautiful people – the Unt Maldharis – Camel Pastoralists came together on Saturday to celebrate World Camel Day. More than two hundred of them from areas all over Kachchh had reached Bhuj to be a part of the occasion. The event was also an opportunity to release the Biocultural Community Protocol Book and discuss about its relevance to the life and future of the Camel Maldharis of Kachchh.

One of the woman said to me, “Your kaka (uncle) is unwell, he has a problem with his feet and cannot walk too much. So I have come alone. One of us had to be here. We cannot miss it!”

skylinepngI recently met a tourist from the Philippines who came to visit Kutch and discover the incredible landscapes and people. She was having a wonderful experience. However when it came to her visit to Bhuj city, her first reaction was : “Yes Harmirsar lake is nice, but Bhuj is so dirty!”
I did not know what to say…

Kutch is an eventful region, for the best or for the worst, and its capital, Bhuj knows it better than any other city here.

Heavily destroyed in 2001, its citizens stood up and succeeded in rebuilding the foundation of what has become a fast growing city. It is now facing the same challenges as many others of its kind in India:

How can the city grow in an harmonious manner, including all the layers of the population?
How does one answer the basic needs of the citizens in areas of energy, water, infrastructure, waste management?
How should we approach the ancestral culture, knowledge and tradition as a strong basis for innovation and development?
How do we encourage economic growth without jeopardizing the environment and the existing rich fabric of livelihood activities?

These thoughts and more led to the birth of Bhuj Bole Chhe, which literally means Bhuj Is Speaking (in Gujarathi). The Bhuj Bole Chhe team believe it is the responsibility of each and everyone of us – citizens of Bhuj, to work together and doing that can be fun too!

That is why they are starting a website, a common platform for everyone in Bhuj to share their stories, ideas, concerns, information and also take action for their city.
It can be fun and their are so many ways in which one can participate : starting with sharing old photos of the city, sharing the tales and legends from our grandparents, sharing some creative ideas we have for the city, organizing a “street cleaning” event with friends in the community… the only limit is your imagination!

This initiative was started by 5 organizations which have been working in Bhuj for a few decades already : Arid Communities and Technologies (ACT), Hunnarshala foundation, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS), Sahjeevan, Urban Setu (Kutch Nav Nirmav Abhiyan).

The Bhuj Bole Chhe adventure will officially begin on the 7th of April in the evening, at the heart of the city : the Hamirsar lake. I invite you to join and start sharing your ideas! Until then, I will let you have a sneak peak of the logo that I worked on for this exciting step that the city is taking!

Visit the website here :

How does one explain the concept of empowerment?

Is it the act of taking control over your future, accepting responsibilities, finding the strength to undertake initiatives or simply to become an actor of one’s own life?

Here is a little story, a strong illustration of this idea called “empowerment”. It takes place in Bhuj, but it could be applied anywhere where fear has often taken over our personal choices and desires to become an entrepreneur.

While we are visiting a wonderful NGO campus called “Hunnarshala”, we are distracted by giggles from a building under construction before which we stand.
It is the laughter of kutchi women working on the roof structure of the new meeting room on campus.
They are watching us from up there, bright-eyed and smiling. It is unclear whether this is mockery, shyness or simple curiousity about the motley group of visitors that we are.

Siddarth, our friend from hunnarshala, explains that these women are actually “building contractors”. They started their company called Mathachhaj, five years ago after being trained to implement rice hay roofs by Hunnarshala. This traditional indian technique called “Thatch roof” is accompanied by another technique used in Bali, Indonesia. This combination allows for insulating roofs using only local materials, which in this case are rice straw and bamboo.
In addition to technical training, some women are also trained in accounting and administrative management of the company. (You can visit their website:

Mathachhaj in the local Kuchi dialect means “a roof above your head”, a beautiful metaphor for the wisdom that they are unknowingly passing on to us this friday afternoon.

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