THE SOCIAL PROBLEM
Chuliaposi and Machhia are tribal villages in the northern district of Balasore, in the state of Odisha in India, where the majority of the population are weavers. Weaving has been a part of their tradition, and almost the whole village is skilled and engaged in traditional handloom cotton weaving, a fine craft passed on to them as ancestral heritage through generations.
Over the last two decades, where the country’s handloom weavers’ count has reduced by more than half and the weaving ecosystem has disintegrated considerably. The slow death of the handloom industry (due to the ineffective implementation of laws protecting their craft from power looms), coupled with weak cooperative alliances and the lack of access to wide marketplaces, has led to insurmountable debts, loss of artistic dignity, and poor socio-economic standards, culminating in cases of suicide amongst this community. Uncertain about their future and staring at starvation, the craftsmen who in the past were engaged in crafting some of the most intricate heritage weaves have had to resort to taking up work at quarries or agricultural and manual labour.
ABOUT THE INITIATIVE
Mauna Dhwani Foundation is a not-for-profit social enterprise registered in Bengaluru, India. It aims to facilitate the revival and resurgence of personal and community identities by enabling the disenfranchised sections of society to find powerful voices and, thus, their rightful places. The foundation’s efforts are primarily focused on rehabilitation and resurgence of women survivors and marginalised communities, the goal being to enable their integration into mainstream society through a holistic three-pronged methodology:
- Self-Empowerment: Enabling the process of finding one’s own internal strength and resources to drive self-development and growth.
- Skill-Enhancement: Creating and implementing a skill development framework that aids in transitioning from un-/semi-skilled to expert levels.
- Sustainable Livelihood: Providing enabling resources and networks to sustain an adequate income.
The Tanta Gatha initiative started with a quest for the master weavers that took them on a journey of over 3000 kilometers across Odisha by road through Dhirakul, Dhenkanal, Nuapatana, Maniabandha, Koraput, Jeypore, Kotpad, Junagadh, Bhawanipatna, Munegowda, Chatikona, Behrampur, Bomkai, Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Udhala, and Chuliaposi.
Post identification of trainers, a community center was improvised and set up in a cattle shed, where about 19 women weavers were trained on the handloom to hone their skills and create designs and fabrics that can be brought to quality standards for the current handloom market.
These women are being trained with the first set of 6 looms that have been purchased for them. Beyond the initial success of Tanta Gatha, Mauna Dhwani Foundation plans to construct a larger community center, a small residential complex, and toilets. Further, the number of looms are sought to be scaled up to 25. A raw material bank is sought to be made, while marketplaces ( offline and online) are to be set up to initiate the forward and backward linkages required to help Tanta Gatha succeed and flourish.
Further, telecom facilities, and provisions for health check-ups are sought to be created. Tanta Gatha seeks to reach a goal of training and facilitating sustainable livelihoods for about 100 weavers and their families.
VKF was instrumental in setting up Mauna Dhwani Foundation and co-creating the Tanta Gatha initiative find relevant field partners for Mauna Dhwani to operate in their chosen geography and sector. VKF also facilitated the creation of the Special Purpose Vehicle, Tanta Gatha Foundation where the majority of the Board of Trustees are the tribal women weavers of Chuliaposi.
From remote project management to actively supporting implementation on the ground during scheduled review and monitoring visits, VKF has helped hand-hold and take strategic decisions for Mauna Dhwani. It is also in the process of assisting Tanta Gatha to propose and seek funding for the longer term from relevant partners.
VKF also was part of the long haul that helped Mauna Dhwani avail INR 1.3 Crore via the Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional
Industries (SFURTI), Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, Govt. Of India