Weaving a new tradition in women empowerment

Weaving a new tradition in women empowerment

Posted By admin | 08 January 2014

Satyan Mishra, co founder and Managing Director of Drishtee, a social enterprise, stumbled upon a unique tradition while on a visit to Dharaha village in Bhagalpur, Bihar. Every parent plants ten fruit-bearing trees to celebrate the birth of a girl child. The trees are named after the child, and the child and the trees are nurtured by the family.

For Mishra, who is of the firm belief that women are at the receiving end in the rural district, this unique example of an innocuous age-old tradition practiced in a remote village, reveals how villagers have attempted to address the problem of a declining sex ratio, female child foeticide and the scourge of dowry-related deaths.

“There is severe migration from these villages and a lot of pressure on the women folk to run the household. This practise has brought overall prosperity to the villagers. Today, Dharaha has hundred per cent green cover, compared to an overall forest cover of only 7.4 per cent in the State,” Mishra told Business Line.

He noted that the farmers had stopped their traditional farming of wheat and paddy and planted many trees since they were profitable and dependable. Given that one medium-size mango orchard is valued at around Rs 2.5 lakh every season, these trees have great commercial value.

“The produce from the trees adds to the income of the family, and the overall prosperity of the village and takes care of the girl’s wedding, but we wanted to add to the employment opportunities,” said Mishra, who is passionate about creating an ecosystem for rural communities.

Overall development

To facilitate organic growth and overall development in Dharaha, Mishra set up the Drishtee Rural Apparel Producers (Drap) organisation. “We decided to train women in the field of textiles. We took it up as a test case, since the women needed to learn some skills,” said Mishra. A training programme was started in 2011, and now 7,000 women from the entire district have enrolled, learning different kinds of apparel techniques such as embroidery, sewing, weaving, spinning and crochet. They are also taught a variety of machine and hand embroideries to empower the women with livelihood opportunities.

“It is promoted by women producers and is entirely owned and operated by women as shareholders. The idea is to establish sustainable backward and forward market linkagesto ensure that the communities continue to get sustainable employment,” said Mishra.

Drap went a step ahead and started exploring various markets for collaboration. It teamed up with an export house in Delhi, Theme Export Private Limited, Biba India, Naurang Foundations, and recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Handloom and Handicrafts Export Corporation of India. The deal ensured a space in Baba Kharag Singh Marg in New Delhi, where Drap products are kept for sale.

For Mishra, it has been a question of fitting a suqare peg in a round hole. “Bhagalpur in Bihar was a major textile hub, and it once had lots of powerlooms and handlooms. It then became a dying trade, given the mass scale migration. We have now ensured that women from below the poverty line have kept the industry alive,” said Mishra.

Terming it a community engagement practice, he added: “We have to let the villagers understand that their own sustainability is within their reach. We have also tied up with the National Skill Development Organisation to train one million men and women in villages. The 10-year programme was started in 2012 and is related to textile, agriculture and construction, so that people don’t have to migrate for jobs.”

Link: http://m.thehindubusinessline.com/news/states/weaving-a-new-tradition-in...