This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Vivek Kumar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

When We’re All So Patriotic, Why Is Our Handloom Industry Dying?

More from Vivek Kumar

The government of India has declared August 7, as National Handloom day to mark the Swadeshi Movement which began on August 7, 1905. The objective is to generate awareness about the importance of handloom industry and its contribution to the socio-economic development.

The handloom sector is one of the richest and most vibrant aspects of the Indian cultural heritage. Weavers are keeping the traditional craft from different states alive. The level of artistry and intricacy achieved in handloom fabrics is unparalleled, with certain weaves and designs still beyond the scope of modern machines.

A wide range of distinct silk is found in our country, be it the heavy Tasar silk from Jharkhand or the thread work of Bomkai from Odisha. There is also the shiny Mangalgiri cotton from Andhra Pradesh, the luxurious Paithani from Maharashtra and the traditional Patola from Gujrat. The wide range of silk fabrics with their ethnic texture and beauty make our textiles the richest in the world.

While India provides about 95% of hand-woven fabric in the world, sadly there is very little demand for handloom products in our country. Not only does this fact make handloom expensive but it also contributes to making the lives of weavers full of hardship. A sari woven in a handloom requires months to finish but doesn’t cost as much as the energy and inputs invested to produce it.

The plight of weavers in our country highlight that the situation of the weavers’ community is still the same as it was during the British rule. It has been 70 years since India got independence, but the handloom sector in our country is still marginalised. The textile industry played a significant role in the fight for independence. The Swadeshi movement was only possible because our weavers took charge of creating more handcrafted products to fulfil everyone’s demands.

Indians turn very patriotic when it comes to talking about the movement to promote Indian goods and services. But, we fail to support the real essence of Indian industry. The Indian consumer market has always supported companies who are replicas of foreign corporate houses but never cared for products which support the Indian artistic communities. Many start-ups evolved in these years, but very few dared to take the initiatives to promote indigenous artwork. The mass consumers in India, who find themselves comfortable with the goods and products of international brands consider handloom products to be too expensive. Even outlets like Handloom House or Jharcraft, which are government undertakings failed to increase the demand for handloom products.

Official surveys published by the office of the Development Commissioner (Handlooms) suggest that the number of weaver families reduced from 124 lakhs in the 1970s to 64 lakhs in 1995, and further down to 44 lakhs in 2010. A study conducted by Rashtra Cheneta Jana Samakhya, a leading trade union of handloom weavers, reports that over 1,500 weavers committed suicide in the last three years across the country.

Handloom weaving is largely decentralised with the weavers mainly belonging to the vulnerable and weaker sections of society. The lack of orders, the rise in consumption of foreign materials, increase in the price of input costs and the long time required to create handcrafted products are some of the primary reasons which are slowly killing the handloom sector. Apart from these issues, the past governments have also carried out minimal efforts for conserving the lives of our weavers. Further, the Handloom Reservation Act, 1985 which protected the interests of the weavers came into scrutiny only in 2015 when there was a chance that it may get repealed. Lack of proper government schemes for sectors like health insurance, work shed funds, thrift funds and no provision for minimum wage programs in this sector have worsened their lives.

Small and medium enterprises, CSR initiatives of various companies and various NGOs succeeded in training several women in the art but couldn’t provide a market to sell their products.

But we should not forget that financial aid by the government or the support from textile outlets alone, cannot resolve the existing issues. Self-help groups can work with small and medium enterprises for greater access to funds. We can also do our bit to make their lives better by buying goods from small weavers rather than accepting foreign material. By saying foreign material, I mean that we should stop, or at least cut down on accepting and buying synthetic fabric and mass produced designs.

India boasts of luxurious natural textiles which need to be recognised and highlighted more. Our efforts will not only preserve our culture but more importantly, enable the weavers to fulfil their dream of living a good life.

You must be to comment.

More from Vivek Kumar

Similar Posts

By Tanish Agarwal

By Jaidev Malik

By Fatem

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below