Militancy-hit Manipuri women weave ‘Fab’ designer dreams for economic empowerment
Imphal, June 8: Manipuri women are well-known for weaving dreams on fabrics. Weaving is a favourite hobby of almost all Manipuri women as they are apt in handling the loom. Just hold a piece of moiraingphee, leirum, lasingphee or phanek fabric; you will know what we are talking about. From intricate motifs to the quality of fabrics, Manipuri women create world class garments.
Unfortunately, till date the women artisans of the state have not got their dues as they have hardly managed to turn their expertise in earning their livelihoods. However, things are changing fast.
Now, the women of Manipur will not only create best of fabrics on their handlooms but will also earn handsome money out of it. Next time you visit a store of Fabindia, a popular brand that deals with handloom and handicraft products, don't forget to admire and buy designer palazzos, shrugs and kurtis made out of Manipuri fabrics.
The collaboration between the traditional Manipuri artisans and the brand has been made possible because of the intervention by several NGOs and government-run bodies under a special project.
As a part of the initiative, the Control Arms Foundation of India and the Manipur Gun Survivors Network, two NGOs, collaborated with the Northeast Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), a government agency under the Union ministry of science and technology, and the craft company Rangsutra, joined hands to sell Manipuri handloom products to Fabindia last year.
In order to make the fabrics more trendy and fashionable, two Delhi-based designers provided training to the women weavers. Recently, Fabindia has bought textiles from weavers who work in remote parts of the northeastern state. According to a report by The Telegraph, deal is worth Rs 14 lakh.
"The order includes 1,000 kurtis, 500 palazzos and 350 shrugs. Women in Manipur have traditionally been associated with weaving but they need better training in design to cater to demand in stores like Fabindia. This order has come as a morale booster for the weavers as Fabindia is a popular brand and we hope the customers will also love the products. This will double the income of the weavers and we hope it will add brand value to the traditional textile products of Manipur," the product manager of the project, Majai Ibungo, told The Telegraph.
He added another Goa-based textile company has also placed an order for the products.
According to an estimate, around 33.7 per cent of the state's households are associated with the handloom industry. In fact, the handloom industry comes second only to agriculture in terms of employment generation for women.
Unfortunately, as the state has been ravaged by militancy for several decades, the weavers have failed to promote their products and turn handloom industry into a profitable business.
Officials of the Control Arms Foundation of India said nearly 300 women become widows in Manipur every year and earning a livelihood is a challenge for them.
"Lack of contact with domestic and international market space has kept the exquisite textiles limited to the state market only. As market space is limited, the profit margin remains restricted. Most products lack a national and international appeal. Hence, we decided to work upon a skills upgrade for the artisans, provision of cheap yarn and adequate market links," said Binalakshmi Nepram, a rights activist who heads the two NGOs.
The Telegraph report stated that the NECTAR provided loans to acquire yarn and set up better looms, along with skills training for the women weavers. The foundation, in collaboration with Rangsutra, helps to market the final products in cities and putting them in touch with other buyers and retailers like Fabindia.
"Such efforts will go a long way because when we economically empower women, we empower a community, a state and region and usher in peace and development in the Northeast," Nepram said.