Women weavers of Uttarakhand claim more than just the breadwinner status
Even the slightest drizzle is enough to make everyone’s mood drop instantly. It reminds the whole village of June 2013, when the hills of Uttarakhand were doused in rain with a cloud burst of unimaginable force. The water steamrolled entire villages and cut into hillsides, killing hundreds.
The mood might drop with the chilling grey clouds, but the spirit of Langoudi village in Kedar Valley is far from dampened. As you enter the village, the clickety-clack of the looms provides a constant background score. One building in the village is particularly busy. The hub of all activity is a clutch of cosy rooms in the beginning of the village. This sound is just a sample of a more palpable buzz in a weaving unit a little far from here. This building is reserved for a small office, where future designs and plans are chalked out. Another small room is the training area where women are getting oriented to subjects on sales and marketing. In this village, women hold sway on the business of weaving. Ever since the floods ravaged families, leaving many women to earn a living without their husbands, the dynamics have changed vastly.
Fueling self-sustenance amongst the Kumaoni women, Mukti Datta is single handedly steering the ‘Panchachuli’ ship. Established in 1998, the weaving society for women aims to take a considerable amount of village women into its fold, to train them in the art of weaving. In fact, the idea is not only to teach them how to weave, but also adapt to contemporary products, understand quality and the full circle of pricing, sales and marketing. These women are here to build a high-end brand of hand woven stoles, shawls, blankets, mufflers and blankets produced in their own village.
While Panchachuli started in Kumaon, this project is named ‘Mandakini’ after the namesake river that flows in this region. The Panchachuli model is to be replicated hereto take it on the same trajectory of business. These products find their way to high-end stores of different countries. The fair-trade practice allows for the revenue to flow back into the hands of the weavers. The organisation has touched the lives of more than 500 women till now.
As synergies of learning are being put to use with the experience of this in Kumaon for more than two decades, the energy around the project is infectious. The enthusiasm around the project is keeping hopes alive. More than weaving colourful yarns, the ladies are actually weaving their dreams for a better future. Women weavers of Uttarakhand are claiming more than just the breadwinner status – they are turning into formidable businesswomen.
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