Just kilometres past the borders of Delhi sits a village called Bajghera. On your way to Bajghera, you slowly see the transition from big cities with giant buildings and lavish cars to tiny shops, rural households and no signs of transportation. Situated in Haryana, it looks just like an ordinary village.

Amidst these narrow lanes live a group of women who work every day to treat all waste paper collected from the cities nearby. An initiative by the nonprofit organisation Literacy India, their work includes producing supporting material for the end products.

It is definitely not a one-woman job, and there are separate teams for each stage: creating new paper from the old, producing decorative items, and the final act of crafting the paper into various useful forms.

They recycle paper waste to create notebooks, magazine holders, file covers and much more. Just thinking of all those old newspapers, notebooks, books, rough pages and bills in one’s house, it’s difficult to think they can be transformed into something so beautiful and useful.

And it’s not like an office in a big city here. When you watch them work you realise they have months of expertise. You see some smiling faces doing their jobs almost effortlessly. If they make a mistake, they laugh at it and correct it together.

More than a regular workspace, it is a community, where these women can work and have casual discussions of all sorts. This might be seen as a distraction in the kind of office we’re used to, but for them it’s a catalyst. They talk, they share and enjoy what they do.

Protecting and restoring the environment was not the reason they joined this initiative, but working here for months and years, they came to realise the impact of waste on the ecosystem. A worker who had recently joined told me she realises that waste won’t just disappear, it needs to be dealt with. They know they are playing a role in curbing the menace of pollution.

Their stories are more than about creating unique products from discarded material, it is also about empowerment and liberation. One of the women working here told me she did not want her husband bear the burden of various expenses. She decided to be independent and also contribute to the family economy.

One often finds stories of empowerment in cities and urban setups but not in places like Bajghera. This photo feature is a small attempt to celebrate their effort and resolve.