About a decade ago, when Sunita Khatavkar expressed her desire to join her family’s pottery business, her husband and in-laws dissuaded her. Her neighbors and relatives ridiculed her. “Women don’t work at the wheel,” they said. So in the afternoons, when her husband and father-in-law return home for their lunch and quick siesta, Sunita would try her hand at the wheel.
Having closely watched her husband and father-in-law for years, she didn’t find it too difficult to mould and shape the clay. “Sometimes, I would secretly remake the product my husband or father-in-law had made just before going for lunch. And they could never tell the difference!” laughs Sunita. This went on for a few years.
One day, the Zilla Parishad of Chandrapur organized a round of training programmes for Self Help Groups (SHGs) in her village Pusegaon. This included pottery. Sunita enrolled for a six-month course, which her family reluctantly allowed.After she was officially ‘trained’, she started openly making clay items. But selling her products was quite challenging.
Disheartened, she was about to quit. In 2014, she attended a Mann Deshi Foundation orientation session where she learned that the organization helped women like her improve their marketing, customer relations, product display and pricing. She reworked her collection and added utensils, agarbatti stand, diyas, jars, human figurines and bowls.
The Mann Deshi team encouraged her to set up a stall at their bi-annual exhibition in Satara. To her surprise, she not only sold all the items but also made a profit of Rs 5,000. Since then, she has participated in many exhibitions in Satara and Mumbai and her income has kept increasing. This year, at the Mann Deshi Rural Mahotsav she made a profit of Rs 25,000. “Today, my husband and in-laws are very proud of my achievements,” smiles Sunita.