A weaver at work in Imphal. Telegraph picture
Guwahati, June 6: Those bright and intricate Manipuri fabrics you admired can now be found in the form of a pair of palazzos, shrugs or kurtis in a store near you.
Fabindia, a popular brand, has bought textiles from weavers in remote parts of Manipur. The handloom products were purchased as part of a project involving the Control Arms Foundation of India and Manipur Gun Survivors Network, two NGOs that collaborated with the Northeast Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), a government agency under the Union ministry of science and technology and craft company Rangsutra and fabindia last year.
Under the project, two Delhi-based designers provided training to women weavers for designs that cater to market demand. Fabindia then bought textiles worth Rs 14 lakh and the first consignment was delivered recently.
"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 said another Goa-based textile company has also placed an order for the products.
Altogether 33.7 per cent of the state's households are associated with the handloom industry, the highest among the states. It comes second only to agriculture in terms of employment generation for women.
However, militancy has been a constraint for women to promote their products.
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.
Nepram has been working for victims of violence in the Northeast and other parts of the country.
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.