Women Artisans:Skills and Livelihood Project
Location:Midnapur, West Bengal
CSR Initiative by:Dalmia Bharat Foundation
Midnapur, West Bengal - Madur Products
In Bengal, the word Madur is synonym to floor mats. Mats form an intrinsic part of the Bengali lifestyle, and they are made from natural fibres known as Madurkathi which is a rhizome-based plant found abundantly in the alluvial tracts of Purba and Paschim Medinipur. This craft dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation and the mats made using this craft during the olden times were originally collected as revenue under the jagirdari system.
Mat weaving is the only source of income for most of its weavers and close to 90% of the workforce engaged in this heritage craft are women. The occupation of a chain of people depends on this labour-intensive craft which starts with the cultivation of reed i.e Madurkathi, cutting the reed when it grows up to 4 - 5 feet, soaking and dyeing of the madur sticks and then finally weaving the dyed and dried sticks into beautiful mats and other products. With different people involved at the various stages of this entire process, the Madurkathi craft remains extremely vital for them as their livelihood depends on the income earned from it. The problems faced by the craftsmen are many, as a result of which we face the threat of not only having such an indigenous rural craft go extinct but also losing our treasured craftsmen who end up looking for alternate sources of income.
To help these traditional weavers, Mon Ami Foundation along with Dalmia Bharat Foundation, worked at improving and providing better resources for their overall upliftment. The Mon Ami team helped in bringing a more contemporary look and feel to their products to help them establish a niche in the urban set-up and make their creative outcomes more relevant for the modern markets. The weavers were more inclined towards working on their traditional designs and techniques known as Shital Pati which loosely translates to cool mats that are ubiquitous in every household in Midnapur but unfortunately do not have much scope in the modern household. Product diversification was explored and successfully implemented under intensive training from master craftsmen. The weavers learnt new weaving techniques along with modern designs that ultimately made them realise how diverse their craft can be, making their primary source of income more sustainable.
- With the help of training received from the Mon Ami team, the Midnapur weavers learned how to diversify their product range and move from weaving just simple mats to many other items that have better scope and acceptability in the urban homes like table mats, runners, yoga mats, file folders, slip-ons, trays, lamps etc. The weave patterns for the new range were also more contemporary and up-market that helped these weavers take their ancestral craft to a whole new level.
- As the weavers were trained to match up their skills to the international standards, they also became aware of production scale-up that goes hand-in-hand with achieving global presence. They became more conscious about maintaining the level of standards with respect to design, colours, weaving and finishing in the entire lot of products created by them to ensure dependency, repeat orders and customer satisfaction.
- Since the new products developed by the Midnapur weavers were more upscale, the platform to market this new and fresh range also had to be high-end, so as to get an appropriate price for all the hard work that they had put in and achieve the economic stability that they had been aiming for.
- At the onset, some of the weavers who became a part of this project were jobless and the training helped them to get back on their feet and move towards a more dependable source of livelihood. Since this craft is labour-intensive, people are needed at the different stages of its production like weavers, during the weaving process and tailors, during the stitching process. The coaching helped them become more skilled and proficient in their own specific areas.