A traditional Manipuri costume is incomplete without a Phanek — a handwoven wraparound piece of cloth that is available in bright block colors or stripes. Weaving these pieces of fabric combines the inventiveness of an artist with the dexterity and patience of a craftsman. However, a phanek isn’t made by skill or talent alone; it requires ply yarn, using multiple colours of cotton, detergents, and dyes. In other words, it costs money or capital to make these fabrics.
Oinam Sarda Devi is a weaver from Moirang, Manipur who artfully weaves these meklhas to support her family. Most of us are just learning to shoulder responsibilities of home and children, but Oinam Sarda Devi has spent most of her life handling the everyday pressure of her family alongside her work, but it is an uphill task. Her family’s annual income is a mere Rs. 56,000 leaving her very little savings at the end of the day. Though her husband, a fisherman, is supporting her in raising their children, times are still hard.
The immense struggles and hardships Oinam Sarda Devi has faced through the years or the lack of a permanent home for her family has not dampened her spirit. She is purchasing more materials, striving to create better products. So far, her only option to raise money was to go to the local moneylender, paying an interest of 100% or more, effectively indebting her for the rest of her life.
Now, she has another option. You and me. If you have enjoyed wearing traditional handwoven clothes or garments, we ask you to spare a thought for the weavers and artists like Oinam Sarda Devi, who have homes to run and families to feed. You can consider becoming a lender to her and hundreds of weavers, artisans and craftsmen like her on Rang De’s platform. You can support her by providing her a loan from the comfort of your home, and watch as your money is disbursed and eventually makes it way back to you.
www.rangde.org provides microcredit to support weavers like Oinam Sarda Devi. You can make an investment and support handloom weavers in Manipur here.
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