Chanderi is a small town with a lot to offer – 300 monuments within a 6 km radius to beautiful hand woven sarees and apparel. But the weavers lives aren’t as becoming. Of the 3,500 weaving families in Chanderi, many don’t own a loom and live a hand-to-mouth existence through daily wages. Even though the town earns an annual revenue of 70 crore, on average a weaving family earns no more than 3,000 a month. The literacy level in the region is low, and the younger generation are slowly drifting away from this traditional source of livelihood.
Believing that ‘information poverty’ is the biggest barrier to development, Delhi based NGO , The Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) has been using ICT and IT to bridge the information gap on both sides of the spectrum and provide free flowing information. In this case, DEF uses its expertise to upgrade the skills of traditional artisans and designers while also introducing the outside world to the wonders of Chanderi – from its hand woven cloth to its forgotten heritage , history and culture.
Osama Manzar, the founder of DEF says that the time when they started work in Chanderi, 90% of the population didn’t have the capability to design and they were heavily dependent on master weavers. All this led to an uneven distribution of income with majority of the earrings going to the various middlemen involved in the process.
DEF set up Chanderi Weavers Information and Communications Technology Resource Centre ( CWICTRC). They identified and trained youth in the region with ICT, basic computer and English language skills are given free of cost to them.Unlike before,they can now be a embroiderer or stitch & design apparel using computer software Wonder Weavers System. DEF have also set up e-commerce portal where the weavers can sell their products and get directly paid for their work.
The CWICTRC is the hub of all design work in Chanderi now.Unlike before ,the computer-based designing software cuts this design time now and what they used to design in one day can now be finished in one hour. The designer see the layout of the design on cloth ,finalize it and then send it to the weaver.
Their target is to train atleast 20 master designers capable of working independently with weavers across the country. They want to scale up the e-commerce portal and start a rural BPO so the youth being trained can find employment in the town itself. In addition to this they are going to start computer centres in all thirteen Municipal schools to expose children to modern technology.
The biggest challenge they face right now is to manage the expectations of the community and at the same time enable them to carry forward all the activities independently in the course of time.
Aklem, who has been weaving his entire life,under the influence of some friends left weaving and started trading in shares .Soon, he lost his savings and got bankrupted. Today,with the help of Chanderiyaan he has ten weavers working with him and is on the way to becoming a master weaver. And more like him are ‘going live’.
Other Activities involves in the CWIRC are:
- Skill Builder Programme
The main objective through this program is to acquaint the youths with the benefits of ICT and their apllications in various spheres of life. In this program, computer applications are taught through examples which are relevant to the learners environment. More than 1000 youths have been trained under this Skill Builder Programme which is developed by IETS (IL&FS Education and Technology Service Limited.)
- English Relay Programme (ERP)
This program also devised by IETS is specially designed to cater to the needs of rural children. The objective of the program is to train the children in Basic English language skills and later in competent usage of English for academic purpose and daily use. ERP has been able to develop a great sense of confidence among the 1000 participants through the program.
- Self Help Groups (SHG)
Promoting the formation of Self Help Groups is one of the key tasks of the CWIRC. The goal is to form at least 30-50 SHGs for various activities in order to create ownership, entrepreneurship, and to create long term sustainability for the Chanderiyaan Project. More than 30 groups with total of 250 members are active in various activities of Chanderiyaan in CWIRC of Chanderi.
- Computerized Pattern Design
The wonder weave software has been customized according to the requirements of the Chanderi weavers. They have succeeded in reproducing traditional patterns and in combining the myriad existing designs to create new patterns. More than 500 patterns designs have been developed and archived so far.
- Loom for PoP Weavers
The special initiative to install 30 looms for the poorest of the poor (PoP), Chanderi weavers has been taken up by DEF so that all weavers are given equal opportunities and resources irrespective of their economic status. Significant number of SHGs are using the looms to enhance the earnings and profit from their produce.
- Apparel Design
Apparel design is an intensive training course. It is divided into two parts, the first part seeks to acquaint the women with the basics of sewing and stitching. The second part is more specific and deals with the intricacies of both textile and apparel designing. This course equips the women to produce ready made garments and furnishings in conjunction with market trends. More than 150 unique designs have been developed so far.
- Block Printing and Kalamkari
Block printing and Kalamkari are two of the most sought after techniques for fabric decoration. Woodblocks engraved with intricate pattern are dipped into coloured dyes are stamped on to the fabric. The block printing unit at CWIRC is manned by skilled artisans who work their magic on Chanderi weaves. Whereas Kalamkari has been revived, Block printing has been introduced in Chanderi for the first time.
- Chanderi e-Commerce Portal
The Chanderiyaan initiative is working towards launching an e-Commerce website to market and sell Chanderi products globally with an online payment option and a virtual shopping rack. The portal will launch soon as www.chanderiyaan.net and expects to become a virtual mall for all the weavers and suppliers from Chanderi.
For more about the project : http://defindia.net/
Pictures courtesy : DEF
Youtube link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3wjLSI30sRQ#t=57