“Women shine from within like they have an inner light in them when given an opportunity” Meenakshisays Meenakshi Walke.
One such woman who shined like a star when she got a chance to showcase her work is Meenakshi. She was born near a brick kiln, a small village of Savargaon in Nagbhir tahsil. She later started living in slum areas right after her marriage. Worries about her son’s future, lack of guidance on new technology and only average education to add to her struggles, overall poverty struck life, Meenakshi faced many such challenges to overcome her problems.
Now, Meenakshi Mukesh Walke does not need any introduction. She is the first craftsperson who got golden opportunity to design the aesthetic jewellery and crown from bamboo for the contestants in an international beauty pageant, ‘Miss Climate’ December 2019, sponsored by an American institution. On the very occasion, Meenakshi was also honoured on the stage by the dignitaries.
Meenakshi is probably the first bamboo artisan in the country to have her skills ironed in Jerusalem, Israel.
The Chief Minister of Maharashtra had liked the Bamboo Rakhis made by her. Meenakshi came into limelight in 2020 when she sent Rakhi made up of bamboo to our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi on the occasion of Rakshabandhan. It benefited her by giving business of six thousand rakhis and providing employment to the women in lockdown. Meenakshi’s hardship in life is unending. She lives in a small place, works there and trains many women in this field.
She is a unique artisan who inspires and teaches people, especially women who are from a similar background as hers to do bamboo farming and to learn Bamboo craft. Her talent for socially empowering women by teaching them techniques to make artwork and make an independent living is another feather in her cap. Meenakshi is now getting invitations to teach in many states like Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, etc.
Her work with bamboo as an artisan has many objectives behind like self-reliant, employment, plastic-free environment, the prosperity of farmers, village development, etc. Meenakshi has not only employed many women but brought Vidarbha’s name among eleven countries in the world.
Without any artistic background and encouragement, she chose to do something with her life and opted for a 70-day course in bamboo craftwork under the government’s scheme. Since then, Meenakshi has made several artworks with bamboo, forthwith empowered women around her and also achieved several awards for her contribution towards the society.
Meenakshi, who runs a social enterprise called Abhisar Innovatives, was given the ‘Top 20 Start-up Award’ in Delhi. The Human Rights Society of New Delhi also conferred the National Nari Shakti Samman Award to her. Meenakshi says that our culture is very vibrant and we must get inspired by it.
Along with making her bamboo artworks, she also works on social causes like emancipation of plastic goods, protecting the environment, promoting bamboo farming, rural development and employment, making bamboo available for cheap to build houses for the poor. Meenakshi says, “It will be easy to empower women if we work hard on our cultural inspirations.” Eminent media like The Hindu, Times of India, The New Indian Express, The better India, Enaadu, Deshbandhu and India TV have also covered her story. Meenakshi further adds, “Every woman is a star in herself, you just have to respect her, not discriminate and give her an equal opportunity.”
Her ultimate vision and the upcoming plan is to enhance bamboo cultivation across the country, guaranteeing employment and training. 24 years Government of Maharashtra’s award-winning magazine has also taken notice of her splendid work. Despite poor financial background, hardship in getting loans from a bank, difficulty in finding a decent and affordable place for her workshop, she can not sit idle. Her elevated soul makes her different from others. Her strong belief in integrity, truth and perseverance make her courageous woman.