It was March 9th – International Women’s Day. The Year was 2017. Smriti Irani, the Union Textiles Minister announced the ‘Kamaladevi Chattopadhya National Awards’ awards for women weavers & artisans. It was a new category of awards especially for women handloom weavers and handicraft artisans.
It was also an occasion when the labour saving, efficiency improving Buniyaad Reeling Machines were distributed to the women weavers.
What do these awards mean to the women handloom weavers and handicraft artisans?
Being instituted from 2017 the ‘Kamaladevi Chattopadhya National Awards’ would henceforth help women weavers and artisans receive due recognition and economic benefits. The awards are a small tribute to recognize the craftsmanship excellence and hard work being put in by millions of women working in their homes, since they are carrying forward the torch of India’s proud handloom and handicraft heritage.
An occasion for other sops
- This also became an occasion for announcements bearing good tidings. A stage set for better times ahead, the launch of the Mudra loans by the Textiles Minister was enthusiastically welcomed. Starting with a target of 1700 women weavers initially, the circle would definitely widen in the near future. The symbolic gesture of the launch was done through the loans being handed over to five of the women weavers present. The online ‘Handloom Weaver Mudra Portal’ launched in association with the Punjab National Bank would allow both the weavers and officials avail the real time status of loan applications made. But more importantly women weavers and artisans could now have an independence in decision making that was otherwise till then a male bastion that curbed their freedom to implement their ideas.
- The Ministry of Textiles and National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment signed two MoUs with the main objective of increasing earnings of millions of women handloom weavers and artisans belonging to backward classes by undertaking a large number of cluster development projects.
- The minister also launched Handicraft Development Projects for the benefit of women artisans belonging to Schedule Tribes as well, to promote various crafts.
More about the Buniyaad Reeling Machine
The reeling in of silk is a cumbersome process. Cocoons are firstly sorted and then the good ones are boiled in water with some amount of soda for 1/2 to 2 hours. For 1280 cocoons, 300gms of soda is used. In this process, the vessel is pressed with a heavy lid, so that the cocoons do not come out. After boiling, the silk strands are unwounded onto bamboo spools. Workers use their bare thighs to draw out a single filament of silk from the cocoons. This silk is known as ghicca silk.
Developed by Central Silk Technological Research Institute that falls under the aegis of Central Silk Board (CSB), ministry of textiles, the Buniyaad machine not only reduces the drudgery involved in thigh reeling, but also improves productivity and income.
Appreciating CSB for developing the machine, Irani expressed the hope that 100 per cent of women silk reelers who produce by thigh reeling, receive the machine and thereby it would put an end to this inhuman practice. Provided by the Govt. of India, the machine is fairly affordable for the marginal entrepreneurs, given the 75 per cent subsidy provided by the Government of India.
The replicas of the Buniyaad Reeling Machine were given as token symbolism to 3 beneficiaries, indicating the launch of the initiative.
Smt. Irani had then said that the vision of the ministry was to deliver targeted benefits to women weavers and artisans under the theme ‘Mahila Vikas Mahila Ke Saath’, along the lines of Prime Minister Modi’s governance philosophy of ‘Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas’.
Unnati Silks & Handlooms
‘HANDLOOMS FOR WOMEN‘ that began in 1980, four decades since, Unnati Silks still believes in the contribution towards the welfare and emancipation of the Indian ethnic weaver whose contribution to Indian heritage is ever to be valued and remembered. Unnati Silks also believes that it needs a market that acknowledges and appreciates the worth of handlooms and the effort of the humble weaver. Bridging the gap Unnati Silks anticipates, innovates and provides with a strong belief that each and every customer is special and requires that something, which is unique, refreshing, fashionable and of quality.
This has thereby created for it, a sizable domestic market from across the country and overseas. Having a product range that is as varied as it is vast, hand woven and handcrafted, the devotion and dedication of talented ethnic artisans from across 21 states of India comes through in the products on display. Having the Handloom Mark and Silk Mark for most of its products, Unnati’s customers are assured a legitimate backing too, despite being guaranteed original handloom products from the start.
Unnati caters to women products, it’s vision is women-centric, aware and acknowledging that the backbone of the handloom industry lies in the dedicated and devoted hands of a vast majority of females who not only keep the tradition alive but keep the fires in their homes going too.
The Minister of Textiles, Smriti Irani may have initiated a few things that spelt well for a better future for this vast majority of women.
But more than what was promised, it was a bolstering, morale-boosting moment for the women of the handloom industry who received their due recognition as being the heart of a sector that gave much but received very little.