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Empowering Weavers: Revival of Handloom Artisans with rangSutra (By Sumita Ghose)

Posted by Shrimayee Dutta on
Empowering Weavers: Revival of Handloom Artisans with rangSutra (By Sumita Ghose)
RangSutra’s community of handloom weavers across western Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir and Haryana have been able to revive and hone their craft thanks mainly to our partnership with IKEA – who have shown confidence in our ability to weave thousands of meters of handloom fabric which goes into making apparel cushion covers, throws, and rugs, for people all over the world.
The tenacity of handloom weavers and the challenge taken up by our team to execute orders on time and in the desired quality, despite the very long and dispersed supply chain, spreading across the country, is testimony to the resilience of our handloom industry. This past year 250 handloom weavers associated with us, received work round the year and earned well. Many of our weavers have been able to leave the sporadic employment they got in city mills of and return to their homes and families, living and working in a much healthier environment, free from pollution and the stress of city living.
Two years ago we started working in Raisar, a village of traditional handloom weavers, who had gradually given up weaving, due to lack of work, and low demand for handwoven fabric. Regular income has enabled them to repair, refurbish, and in some case extend their homes and to send children for higher education. Sohanlal who was in debt due to his wife’s accident, is being able to pay off the debt slowly, keep the household fires burning, ad has got his children married. Rampratap who used to earlier work at home for local khadi organization says…’coming to the rangSutra centre to work, has meant that I earn in a month, the same as 3 of us together used to earn – doing the various tasks involved in pre and post weaving - working from home. As handloom weaving engages the entire body, weavers tend to stay fit, and can weave till they are 70 without any problem. Some continue weaving for shorter periods even after 70.

Women who don’t normally sit on the loom, but do all the intricate preparation work and post work, have learned to weave in Rajasar village, home to large shepherd community. In Rajasar, our collaboration with the Desi Oon Hub, has resulted in development of the value chain from fiber to fabric and development of everything in between. This has meant working with shepherds, putting in place infrastructure to help them shear the sheep, sort the wool, card it and then spin it One of the key transformations that we strive to bring about is a shift in mindset from weaver to weaver - entrepreneur, keeping the market in mind. This means first of all valuing what you do , seeing its potential, and investing one’s time, skills and energy to give it your best. If you are a part of rangSutra, you have the choice to invest a small amount – whatever possible, as an investment in the company, thus giving weavers a stake in the profits apart from ensuring regular work. Another important quality required in transformation is taking leadership – for your own actions. We believe that everyone has this quality and given a chance it can come to the fore. For weavers it means taking that step to manage ones own time, and learning the skills to ensure good quality weaving that will sell in the market. For all of them it has meant leaving the comfort of home based weaving to weaving at a central location in their village.

A few weavers led the way and the rest followed, and now all rangSutra’s weavers work out of village centres – in some cases they are makeshift ones and in some cases proper structures built for handloom weaving. A third important quality is professionalism – being accountable, respectful, ethical, dedicated and committed to honoring what one has agreed to doing or being part of.

Image: Sumita Ghose with women handloom weavers

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