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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Striving To Earn A Livelihood, Lives Of Women Weavers Ruined In The Wake Of Kerala Floods

  • IWB Post
  •  September 13, 2018

The devastating Kerala floods left in their wake thousands of ruined lives. Same is the fate that 25-odd women weavers at a handloom co-operative society in Chendamangalam, in Kerala, suffered as the floods destroyed everything from their homes to their factory, centuries-old wooden looms, sinking fabric worth lakhs of rupees.

They were busy preparing for the harvest festival of Onam, on August 25 as it is the biggest season of sales for these. They had been arduously weaving together sarees, dhotis, towels, shirts, and trousers. Every year, these products get sold pretty quickly in the textile fairs in Kerala and beyond, becoming their much-need source of income. Recovery from such a huge loss seems like an impossible task now.

“The floods took away all that we painstakingly produced over the last year. Stocks worth Rs 21 lakh are completely damaged. Another Rs 10 lakh worth products that were sent to Onam fairs in Kozhikode and Ernakulam have come back unsold. Around 4000 meters of fabric kept aside for the school uniforms are soiled,” said Liji, one of the weavers who has spent the last 26 years at a handloom factory in Chendamangalam.

“With an eye on the Onam sales, we had taken out loans for children’s education. How do we move forward from this?” she asked. “But it worries us that after our time’s up, who will take these traditions forward? The industry upholds the pride and prestige of an entire village which has even captured the nation’s attention with its products.”

Even the products which are not damaged at all, like stocks Rs 10 lakhs have returned from textile fairs unsold during the floods.

Women Weavers

At the back of the factory, in a heap lay sarees with beautiful golden embroidery patterns, each costing upwards of Rs 3000, all of them soiled, muddied and bearing the worst handiwork of the floods. Image source

“These are not damaged products at all. We have been pleading with government authorities and the public to help us sell off these stocks because it is very crucial for our finances to rebuild the factory and start operations as soon as possible. There are people coming from outside the village to buy them, but still, sales are not as high as expected,” said Ajith Kumar, secretary of the Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society in Karimpadam.

Being a ray of hope for these weavers, two entrepreneurs, Lakshmi Menon and Gopinath Parayil, have joined Kumar and are making small rag-dolls out of the damaged fabric and selling them online and offline at Rs 25 a piece. The money earned through the sale of these dolls will be deposited directly to the bank account of the cooperative society.

“I think it’s God’s way of helping us. It’s a combination of their kind hearts and our circumstances that led to this idea. When one door gets blocked, the other opens,” said Liji.

H/T: The Indian Express



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