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Story of Rumi Devi, From Class 8 Dropout To Speaker At Harvard

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Ruma Devi, an artisan from Rajasthan’s Barmer, embarked on an extraordinary journey, she went from being a school dropout to being invited by Harvard to lecture its students. Here is an explainer of her incredible journey. 

Ruma Devi of barmer is like goddess for thousands of women with her

Source: Khas khabar

Full Story: 

Born in a quaint village nestled within Rajasthan’s Barmer district, the 33-year-old Ruma Devi has undergone a truly meteoric evolution that traverses from her humble beginnings to gracing the lecture halls of Harvard University. She was invited to speak on micro enterprises and the potential of women at the 17th Annual India Conference in February 2020. Reflecting on her unexpected trajectory, Ruma humbly shares, “But this was never my dream. In fact, I didn’t even know that I could reach a place like this in life.” 

After receiving the Email, she recalls her bittersweet moments and states “It took me a while to assimilate that I had received an invitation to speak there. I waited for a whole month, and only upon receiving a subsequent message from the University did I summon the courage to reply.”

Ruma Devi - Wikipedia

Hardships and Trials: 

She reflects about her hardship days,”I faced the loss of my mother at a tender age, an experience that left an indelible mark on my formative years. In the wake of my father’s decision to remarry, I found myself entrusted to the care of my uncle and aunt. Like countless other girls of my generation, I delved into the world of sewing and embroidery from an early age, with fond recollections of my grandmother’s patient teachings.”

Despite her natural aptitude for these crafts, Ruma’s opportunities to apply her skills beyond the confines of her home were limited. Instead, she channeled her talents into creating her own attire. Furthermore, she adds on “Coming from a weak financial background meant that I had to drop out of school in Class 8. Then at 17, I was married off. That was the custom in my village at that time. I actually felt that life would now start looking better,” 

Ruma became a mother for the first time. She believed that this new chapter would bring her happiness and good fortune. But life had different ideas. Her son lived for only 48 hours as he had some health problems, for which they had to take him to a bigger hospital and was unable to afford the treatment due to which they couldn’t save him. She shares how this sad incident made a big change in her life’s direction.

The Beginning of her Sewing Career:  

She brought together two other women from her village, overcoming challenges to persuade them to join her. For women, stepping out of their homes for work was almost impossible. With determination, the three of them embarked on their sewing venture. While they managed the initial work, achieving a polished finish and completing products required a sewing machine. This led to the creation of a group with ten women, each contributing Rs 100 to acquire a second-hand sewing machine.

A Stitch in Time | The Social Warriors - India Today

Source: India Today

Amidst their diligent efforts, Ruma and her group encountered a hurdle in marketing their creations. Lacking expertise, they embarked on a learning journey, grasping every detail from creating invoices to identifying the right contacts and packaging techniques. Ruma got her first big breakthrough with Gramin Vikas Evam Chetna Sansthan, an NGO in Barmer dedicated to uplifting women in rural communities.

A life Changing Opportunity:

Meeting the officials from Gramin Vikas Evam Chetna Sansthan, she recalls, “It felt as if destiny had intervened on our behalf. Despite our strong sewing skills, the shortage of orders was a challenge. Meanwhile, at the organization, an abundance of work remained unfulfilled due to a lack of manpower. It was a perfect match, as if the stars had aligned.”

Once their initial work was approved, the organization entrusted them with additional responsibilities. Fueled by their determination to meet deadlines, the women devoted an entire night to completing a three-day workload. “None of us slept that night. The shared thrill of finally securing consistent work was palpable. We were fully committed to delivering our finest and presenting impeccable products,” she recounts.

Ruma Devi: An empowering rural fashion icon

Source: The Hans India

As an increasing flow of tasks found its way to their doorstep, the group expanded by welcoming more women artisans from Rajasthan. A common aspiration united each woman they encountered, the desire for financial independence. She further adds, “We faced significant resistance. Men were often reluctant to accept women working and earning money. We went from house to house, explaining our intentions. With visible results and increased income, more women gradually joined our ranks.” 

Presently, the tribe has flourished, encompassing a vibrant community of 30,000 women spanning 25 districts within Rajasthan. With skillful craftsmanship, they fashion an array of items including clothing, bags, and more, resulting in monthly earnings reaching up to Rs 15,000. These accomplished women have showcased their creations not merely in Germany but also graced esteemed occasions like Lakme Fashion Week with pride.

Ruma Devi receives Nari Shakti Puraskar | Women on Wings

Source: Women On wings

Barmer To Delhi:

Amid the bustling activity, Ruma seized an opportunity to showcase their products at a Delhi exhibition, marking her first departure from Barmer and a memorable experience. However, her disappointment arose when Barmer’s absence from the exhibition’s recognition prompted a resolve to elevate their art form’s popularity, making Barmer synonymous with it. This Delhi visit set the stage for a series of milestones, including an unexpected invitation from the organizers of the Heimtextil Fair in Germany in 2017, where they secured a free stall, leading to a scramble for funds and eventual assistance from other organizations.

Rajasthani women stitch their way to high fashion - Kractivism


Once in Germany, the awe and appreciation their handmade creations garnered fueled their dedication. A swift two-day sell-out at the four-day exhibition further affirmed their craftsmanship. This success catalyzed the expansion of their work, extending beyond bed sheets, cushion covers, and curtains to encompass dresses, bags, kurtas, stoles, and more. This evolution even propelled their participation in Lakme Fashion Week, opening new horizons for the team.

Empowering and uplifting the community:

Sugdi Devi, a refugee from Sindh in Pakistan, collaborating with Ruma and the organization proved to be a profound blessing. After settling in Rajasthan’s village named Dhanau, financial struggles were mounting as her husband juggled sporadic employment. Equipped with needlework skills from her youth, the opportunity to work alongside Ruma and the Gramin Vikas Evam Chetna Sansthan transformed her life. 

ABOUT US – Ruma Devi

Source: Ruma Devi

Sugdi underwent skill development, mastering appliqué work and advancing from an artisan to a revered master trainer. Swiftly, she carved her distinct identity, gracing fashion show runways nationwide. Her remarkable talent led to recognition, with the Rajasthan District Administration honoring her on 15 August 2019. Today, Ruma is invited by countries worldwide to exhibit her creations and speak at diverse forums. Her journey epitomizes tenacity and resilience, her tale resonating as a beacon of inspiration.

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