National Handloom Day Fashion

Women-only societies empower weavers in ikat and Narayanpet handloom belts

A model sports an ikat creation by Bina rao   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

On Wednesday morning, an event at Green Park, Hyderabad, will mark National Handloom Day (August 7). Models will walk the ramp sporting creations in ikat and Narayanpet weaves designed by Bina Rao, Hemanth Siri and Rama Rabbapragada. Beyond that glamorous lustre, the event will mark the culmination of the work that has been done in Telangana as part of project Disha for nearly two years.

Forty women weavers will be felicitated. For a long time, men have been at the forefront of weaving and credited for their work on the loom, while women who’ve been involved in the painstaking pre-loom processing of yarn or post-loom work of stitching and hand embroidery, have remained unsung heroes.

Project Disha is a partnership between UNDP (United Nations Development Project), IDF (India Development Fund) and IKEA Foundation, and has helped train more than 2,000 women in Telangana, with the help of Hyderabad-based Creative Bee Foundation and Abhihaara Social Enterprise. Training programmes were conducted to help women in ikat and Narayanpet belts learn yarn processing, weaving, design development, quality control and marketing. In short, they were trained to come together and function as entrepreneurs.

Rustle of handlooms
  • The fashion showcase at hotel Green Park on August 7 will be an inclusive one, with the participation of a transgender and a visually challenged model. A song by lyricist Sirasri will highlight the role of women weavers behind some of the heritage weaves.

Road map

This year’s National Handloom Day is an important one for these women, as it marks the launch of three mutually-aided cooperative (MAC) societies at the end of their training. Narayanpet Swashakti Mahila MAC is supported by Abhihaara and these women will be selling their products through an e-commerce portal that will be launched soon. The other two MAC societies (Mayitri Ikat Mahila Chenetha and Mahila Ikat Chaitanya Hasta Kala) supported by Creative Bee will focus on ikat. Their products will soon be available at a stall near Village Aaharam restaurant at Koyalagudam, Nalgonda district.

Ikat lovers of Hyderabad will have to wait a little longer to buy these collections as efforts are on to get government support to open a stall in the city. As Bina Rao of Creative Bee explains, “The idea is to help women weavers sell their products directly to customers. Getting them to partner with other stores will defeat the purpose, with issues of mark-up prices and exploitation creeping in.”

Bina explains that the three MAC societies will have 100 women members (weavers and allied garment services) each. The societies will be governed by women and annually, they will elect a president and vice president. “As a collective, they will accept orders for new collections and decide price points. Middlemen will not be involved,” adds Bina.

In 2017 and 2018, women from the ikat belts of Koyalagudem and Puttapaka travelled with their collections to eight cities, including Hyderabad, conducting exhibitions. The experience helped them understand buyer preferences and prices at which they could sell. Unlike liaising with retail stores where the stores sell the products at higher prices while weavers get a minimal amount, direct selling helped these women understand the true potential of their products. Bina points out, “Many of these women who were earlier earning ₹3000 to 4000 per month, are now earning ₹20,000 to 30,000.”

A weaver in Narayanpet

A weaver in Narayanpet   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Abhihaara has been working with women in the cotton supply chain (organic cotton farmers, handloom weavers, garment makers and artisans) for more than three years. The organisation has been involved in Disha as well as Microsoft ReWeave centres in Pochampally and Choutuppal (ikat), Narayanpet, and Rajoli (Gadwal weaves). Discussing the varied programmes, Sudha Rani of Abhihaara says, “At Reweave, both men and women are trained in weaving, crafts, digital skills in design development and marketing. Disha, on the other hand, has focussed solely on women and has made them self sufficient.”

Bina points out that project Disha, with respect to Narayanpet and ikat clusters, will come to a close in October-November 2019. With women weavers being trained and empowered, the work has to continue. MAC societies were decided as the way forward. “It’s the first-of-its-kind initiative in India with women-only MAC societies,” says Bina. She feels Disha’s pilot project has been successful enough to be replicated in other handloom belts in India, to empower women weavers.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 4:22:43 AM |

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