Duggardhani, a village haat initiative of the administration to turn the culinary skills of 1,500 women self-help group members into a career option, is fast emerging as a tourist attraction in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district, officials have said.
Inaugurated by District Development Commissioner Babila Rakwal on May 16 in the Kheral panchayat of Pouni block, Duggardhani is more a women’s empowerment movement than a business. It includes women from all age groups and even those from “conservative” families, the officials said.
With its proximity to the road, huge tourist influx to Shri Shiv Khori, eye-catching look and the traditional way of cooking and eating, Duggardhani is ready to become a major tourism attraction in the coming months, they added.
With Duggardhani, Rakwal has attempted to bring a change in the lives of 1,500 self-help group (SHG) members of “Naari ki Pehchaan”, a cluster-level federation.
It is being run in coordination with the Tourism department and the Rural Livelihood Mission as a platform to harness the culinary skills of homemakers and enable them to earn a livelihood out of their kitchens, the officials said.
Women SHG members from cluster-level federations (UMEED) have turned Duggardhani into a career option and taken their talents beyond the four walls of their homes. This way, they have made good money without going out of their way, becoming big financial support to their families as well, according to the officials.
Duggardhani has also fulfilled the long-standing demands of SHG members for a marketplace for traditional handicrafts chabhari binna (grass craft) and handlooms and the region’s value-added agriculture and horticulture products such tikki masala, pickles, chutneys, jams and papads.
The SHG members have been given training in the basics of stocking up the pantry, quick recipes, packing techniques, social media skills and order management, an official said.
They have also been made to understand promotional strategies for the modern market to prepare the women to run their kitchens single-handedly, he added.
“Some of the popular Dogra cuisines include makki ki roti, saag, quer, khurmure, special Dogra dal and mixed rice with accompaniments such as lassi and kheer. This is what sets them apart from commercial restaurants because the Duggardhani menu includes home-cooked food prepared to the liking of the patrons,” the official said.
The quality and affordable prices are their unique selling point. “Every food item is prepared fresh and, hence, there is no wastage,” he said.
The official said each woman brings her area of specialisation to the table.
“They are clever, calculative, know their kitchen inside out and are great with damage control.
“Duggardhani has lifted the spirits of the rural women and boosted their confidence enormously. It has been instrumental in empowering the SHG women who are now confident in their skills and eager to become financially independent,” the official said.
He said the response to Duggardhani from state tourists has been overwhelming. The haat has delivered big orders to them.
It is not only catering to the rural population, the official said, adding that urban customers are also among the clientele.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.