Visiting a hot, dusty, remote village far from a main road in northern Rajasthan, I met a young woman named Bhanwari. In a one-room house with an earthen floor she was weaving, holding her baby with one arm. Her other children were outside. The girls were very thin. There was little food and almost no water in her village, and I noticed that we were very far from any transportation or medical care. Bhanwari looked far older than her young age of twenty four. As she completed the shawl she was weaving, I asked to buy it from her. As soon as I handed her the money, a man came in and snatched it from her feeble grasp.
That moment has remained etched in my mind. Bhanwari, despite her exhaustion and loneliness had managed to create something of beauty, something she could sell, only to have it taken from her. She had no way of defending herself.
I knew this woman needed the means to change her life. But how should she make those necessary changes if she remained isolated and if no one cared about her? I thought that something had to be done; something had to change. The Veerni project began that afternoon.