Coming out of poverty: A model for traditional weavers in India
By Osama Manzar for DEF
NEW DELHI, INDIA, 25 May 2010
Chanderi, a small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh is not just a place with historical significance – it is also making a name for itself by setting an example through an income generating model for over 5 million of the state’s traditional weavers.
The story of Mohammed Furqan from the Chanderi is a beautiful case in point. Until five months ago, Furqan was just another un-employed youth in Chanderi – he had no clue where his life was taking him. Chanderiyaan Centre, an initiative by the Digital Empowerment Foundation that started almost a year ago gave a new meaning to Furqan’s life. In this place, weavers were being taught design on computers, which subsequently translates into marketable products thanks to e-commerce.
Looking at the activities offered by DEF, Furqan decided to take up a textile design course. From there, it was just a matter of couple of months, before Furqan got his ‘hands on’ the computers, unleashing the great designer in him.
The boy now walks with a pride only empowerment brings. He is now also a special designer, ever since his designs had a share in the ‘Commonwealth pie’. His design of the Commonwealth Games monogram, created earlier for the Hastkargha (Handloom) department, was selected to be embossed on more than 11,000 scarves that would be presented to all the Commonwealth games participants, at the inauguration in October 2010 in New Delhi. Furqan is now an inspiration for many Chanderi youth, a population of about 40,000.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of State, Commerce & Industry, Government of India, who recently addressed some 3000 weavers from Chanderi, said in a powerful statement, “this must be the first time in India that we have been able to create a fusion between history, culture, technology, art and ancient skills to empower poorest of the poor, to showcase an example to which should be followed in the 21st century.” This was Scindia’s 4th visit to the center in the past year.
Interestingly, the Centre is run from an ancient building where 250 selected Chanderi residents are included in the project.
Before the project started, Chanderi had been deeply entrenched in a paradoxical situation, where the town as a whole earned more than Rs.650,000,000 (USD 13 Million) in annual revenue by selling their world famous handloom weaved products; but 90 percent of the families taking home just about Rs 1500 (USD 30) per month.
Revenue was being consumed by master weavers, merchants, and the other middlemen. As the Ministry of Communication and IT took cognizance of this practice, the project was assigned to the DEF & Media Lab Asia with the idea of understanding the scope of using “information communication technologies” to improve the conditions of the weavers’ family.
In one year’s time, the momentum and renewed interest generated amongst the Chanderi families to work together is commendable. Thanks to the success of the Chanderiyaan project, the “DIT which has funded the project, is further planning to showcase the project at the national level by involving the Ministry of Micro Small & Medium Enterprises and Ministry of Rural Development to explore if the Chanderiyaan project could be replicated in other clusters.”
One only hopes that the Commonwealth connection generates enough interest in Chanderi, and ensures that each and every family becomes a beneficiary of integrated ICT for development for public good.
Osama Manzar, Founder & Director
Digital Empowerment Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org