The traditional handloom weaving process was once the symbol of self-sustenance as it could be operated by a single individual to fulfil their own needs. However, with the wave of industrialisation, there has been a drastic decline in the number of handloom weavers. Today, the state of the handloom clusters in India is quite different.
Based on Anuprerna's 35+ years of experience working with the artisans, the following is what we know of the artisan's situation in Bengal. The artisans are located in remote villages quite distant from city life. Although road connectivity has been improved over the years a lot, there is still a lack of rail connectivity nearby. Due to this, a person from the community needs to shift to an urban location to pursue other opportunities. On the other hand, these artisans are built around a village community where they are born and brought up. They love to enjoy an inclusive society in the time of festivals, functions and other ceremonies. That’s why all of them has built home workshops on their own.
The artisan clusters are a family-oriented homeworker environment where the men are responsible for weaving and the women are usually involved in the pre-weaving activity. There are few expert women weavers too, skilled in Jamdani weaving techniques. It won’t be difficult for women to do the weaving activity if men started taking responsibility for household chores. It won’t be difficult for women to do the weaving activity if men started taking responsibility for household chores.
The number of handloom weavers in India is on the decline as low remuneration and rising costs are making traditional workers look into other trades. The same can be seen in every part of the country and Bengal is no different. The Jamdani, as well as the Khadi industry, are declining in this region.
A number of causes are responsible for the decline of the jamdani and muslin industry from the 1830s. The major factors were the industrial revolution in Britain, the collapse of the Mughal aristocracies, and the rise of new markets for cheaper textiles. Khadi too faced the same fate due to the introduction of power loom fabrics.
Competitive cost in comparison to power loom machines: Fabric made on power looms are cheaper and faster to produce in comparison to handloom fabrics. Thus reducing the demand for handloom products.
Lower-income leading migration to other professions: 67% of handloom workers are earning less than the minimum wage every month which is not a sustainable income. The older artisans are thus forced to encourage the newer generation to choose an alternative career path.
Reach of credit facilities: Around 76 per cent of the weavers do not have access to banking facilities, let alone being able to get credit facilities from banks.
Inadequate Marketing & Awareness: In India, handloom weavers may be popular in their locality but people elsewhere are unaware of the existence of these rich crafts due to poor marketing.
Low awareness of handloom on online platforms: Many consumers now prefer shopping online than offline. Since weavers cannot reach online consumers directly, many of them do not know the exact demand for their products and also are unable to get good margins.
Creating Awareness: One of our main targets has been to create awareness about crafts and their artisans to our audience in India as well as internationally.
Modernize traditional crafts: We have been working with various designers to develop modern and contemporary designs using these traditional crafts which have a global appeal in order to bring more attention to them.
Providing fair price to Artisans: Our fabrics are made by the weavers without the involvement of any middleman. The cost of the fabrics are set by the artisans & we make sure they are given wages as per any respected profession.
Connecting artisans to consumers: We have started an initiative where we convey messages from our clients to the artisans in order to keep them motivated and encouraged to happily practice their craft.
Creating Transparent Supply Chain: Another initiative we have taken is to create a transparent supply chain where we show how the fabrics are being made by the artisans in their clusters or villages.
At Anuprerna, We Request Everyone To Contribute And Share. This Way We Can Create Global Recognition For These Beautiful Handwoven Craft & Textiles To Bestow Value Onto The Ordinary Lives Of Our Artisans With Extraordinary Skills. And We Believe That's The Only Way We Can Build A Sustainable And Ethical World For Ourselves.