Freeing Assamese Women From Physical, Social and Financial Bondage

October 24, 2016
By Rang De Team

Bodo women in Assam inherit weaving as part of their heritage and are some of the finest weavers in northeast India

Many of us possess physical and mental faculties to lead the life we desire but circumstances, however, curb the freedom to make necessary choices.

Consider Ruwathi’s story.

In Assam, Ruwathi works for a family cleaning, cooking and even works in the field. Many women like her start working at 12 when they are employed as full time baby-sitters and remain bonded to the same family as adults.

They rarely get to marry and often exist on the fringes of the society, earning around Rs 400–700 each month.

When Ant, an Assam-based not-for-profit organisation set up a weaving project called Aagor, one of its mandates was to work with some of the poorest weavers in Assam.

On conducting a survey, it was found that even the poorest weavers owned small lands and had at least one source of livelihood.

The ones in real need were women with no permanent home, who worked for daily wages and travelled to wherever they could find work.

The Ruwathis of Assam.

Many women who work as maids through out their life are given a shot creating sustainable livelihoods through the weaving program at Aagor

Aagor started a maid rehabilitation program called Udangshree Dera or ‘an abode of freedom’ in 2004. Batches of around 24 maids were brought together to reside at Aagor’s weaving centre for a period of six months and were trained in the art of weaving.

Saving as much as Rs 25,000–30,000 over the six months, they were liberated from a lifetime of housemaid drudgery.

While Udangshree Dera focuses on the rehabilitation of maids by training them to weave, Aagor also has two clusters called Rowmari and Mongolian which leverage the weaving skills of many Bodo women who are handed down the tradition of weaving from their mothers.

The Bodo weavers in Assam are known as some of the finest weavers in Northeast India. Inspired by the nature that surrounds them, Bodo weavers use the ‘extra warp’ and ‘extra weft’ techniques to weave motifs such as the wink of a peacock, ferns, fingers and hills.

Aagor Daagar Afad was formed to identify a market for this unique craftsmanship of Bodo weavers.

Presently, Aagor works with weavers in 12 villages and 110 women weavers (permanent and temporary).

Permanent weavers (outside the maid rehabilitation program) who weave fabric worth at least Rs 5,000 per year are offered health insurance and also awarded a bonus of 10% each year.

In the maid rehabilitation program , the women have woven nearly 23,680 meters of fabric earning Rs 11.84 lakhs in wages during the year 2015–16.

Aagor provides training on not just weaving, but also on entrepreneurship and financial literacy programme to women weavers in rural Assam

Aagor not only creates a source of income for women but also provides a number of training and entrepreneurship programs in order to create lasting social and financial empowerment.

The products woven by Aagor’s weavers are sold at popular handloom exhibitions such as Dastkar, Sanadkada, Sampoorna, Ode to Earth and Good Sales in cities such as New Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow and Chennai.

They are also available for sale at their retail outlet in Chapaguri, Assam and at the Ant store in Bangalore.

Rang De has recently partnered with Aagor to raise a sum of Rs 10 lakhs which will go towards meeting working capital needs such as the purchase of yarn and payment of wages. This loan will enable Aagor to focus on promoting the culture of Bodo weaving in a profitable way for its women.

This partnership further strengthens our support to many weaving communities across India.

Join us as a social investor and lend a hand to the talented Bodo women who are finding financial and social redemption through Aagor.