Development Cooperation Handbook/Stories/Weaving Empowerment
Project implemented by Panchachuli Women Weavers
Almora, Uttarakhand, India , February 2011
Co-financed by individual donors
Although women generally get fewer opportunities than men to access education, earn much less money than men and are less represented than men are at political and managerial levels, women are the central pillars of the two fundamental institutions: families and villages. When they are not oppressed and their energy is organized collectively, women set the stage for more prosperous and just societies.
We went to Almora, in the Uttarakhand Himalayas in Northern India, to visit a success story of economic and political empowerment amongst women. Driving along the mountain roads, we saw women collecting twigs and hay along the hill slopes, carrying water on their heads and knitting away. These beautiful but harsh lands never offered many work opportunities. The main source of income is the remittance from men that migrate or serve in the army.
Here, a group of women skilled in weaving decided to join hands and create an organization that could sell the products they created. Between 1998 to 2000, women from every single village between the town of Almora and the forests of Binsar, learnt new skills in weaving and knitting and entered the export market with their products. Soon they discovered that together they could do what they could not do alone, and they started a weaving factory. They associated themselves with fashion designers and international traders. And when their business became successful, they reinvested their profits in improving educational and health services for their children and their communities. They networked with other villages where they started small weaving units and they created a political forum so that more women could sit on policy decision-making seats.
In order to facilitate women in managing their families while working, they gave many women the opportunity to work from home and they raised funds, from government and private donors, for the construction of day care centres and primary schools. A few years ago, the women's cooperative also bought a bus for picking them up from their homes every morning and dropping them back every evening.
The small weaving centre in Almora has now become a shareholding company of 800 women united together in the Panchachuli Women Weaver's Cooperative. 800 more women are being trained to expand the network of skilled and economically self-sufficient women in the region. Through solidarity and self-confidence, the cooperative is bringing economic prosperity to the families of the women shareholders.
Today, women in these Himalayan villages feel empowered in their families and amongst their communities. Today, for the first time ever, women weavers are a stakeholder group with political leverage. They influence local politics to support women in accessing opportunities and in claiming their rights. We really wish this video report will spread the story of these women, of their successes and their challenges; of their achievements and their learning and that it will inspire other women to gain confidence and be protagonists of their lives.
"Everyone has benefitted from this activity. Men have also improved their behaviours because women have started bringing home money. "When we village women started working together, we could never have imagined that we would be equal partners in a big company as we are today" , says a woman. Even if I die now, I can say to myself that I have achieved something in life", says one of the founder women.
On YouTube ⇒ Weaving Empowerment - playlist