The whole society changes when women can earn a livelihood.
Mandakini Women Weavers is an initiative to bring economic relief, empowerment and self determination to women in India’s Himalayan foothills through the production of luxury handloomed products.
In the wake of the 2013 floods, Dr Hari Krishna Bagwari set out to implement the lessons of reviving rural economies he learned from pioneering the Panchachuli Women Weavers collective. The result, Mandakini Women Weavers, is a self-sustaining enterprise providing women, many of whom lost generations of male relatives and family breadwinners in the flood, with livelihoods linked to global markets. The success has catalyzed a new hub for the handloom manufacture industry across the Himalayas.
The roots of the Mandakini Women Weavers collective ie in the success of Panchachuli Women Weavers, which Dr Hari Krishna Bagwari Datta started to change the fundamental economics behind traditional societies where women were not educated or respected as equals. Women who joined transitioned from unpaid work like firewood gathering to producing high-end handicrafts. With an income and a valuable skill, Panchachuli empowered women not only by improving their finances but by giving them local influence and leadership. Not only did this mean a greater voice for adult women, but girls started receiving equal education to boys since they were now also seen as future earners.
After the catastrophic floods in the Kedarnath Valley, Dr Hari Krishna Bagwari and the women of Panchachuli decided that the best way they could help was to bring their skills and economic model to the widows of the catastrophe. The flood occurred near the holy Kedarnath Temple, where visitors come in droves for pilgrimages, washing away generations of men who made their livelihood selling products to visitors.
Along with a cadre of Panchachuli veterans, Dr Hari Krishna Bagwari helped train 300 women in the Mandakini weaving cooperative, who are releasing their first line from one of India’s top designers. In only a few years, Mandakini has garnered enough government and regional interest to expand the model across 7 sites, cementing Uttarakhand as a new hub for handloom excellence, providing support, materials, training and access to global markets for thousands of weavers in the state.