Women Artisans:Skills and Livelihood Project
Location:Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand
CSR Initiative by:JBGVS
Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand - Moonj Project
The Tharu people, a tribal community nestled in the Terai and Bhabar region of Uttarakhand, consider themselves as the “people of the forests” since they are mainly involved in agricultural work. Tharu women take a lot of pride in their artistic skills as they are extremely proficient weavers. They use their traditional skills to create beautiful baskets with intricate designs, exciting colours and patterns using the locally available grass i.e Moonj.
This skilled art form which has been practiced by the Tharu women for more than 60 years has remained wedged to its traditional patterns and weaving techniques with very little observation towards how far this craft has evolved throughout the world. Besides the fact that their beautifully handcrafted pieces have been replaced by plastic and other readily available options in the market, there is a huge opportunity existing in the international sector for Moonj grass products, provided they meet the global standards which made it vital for support and further sustenance.
Mon Ami Foundation along with USN District, Uttarakhand and JBGVS lent their support to not only preserve this folk-art form but to also help the women artisans evolve and make their work more adaptable for the urban/ international set-up. It involved working closely with the women artisans, introducing them to modern designs and forms through multiple rounds of product development. Since the training happened during the lockdown period, the women were trained by master artisans over 8 online sessions and 2 workshops. They were given extensive market exposure with respect to modern designs, new colour palette and technical processes along with a comprehensive session on costing, market outreach, utility and product display.
- The Tharu women initially were more inclined towards making big size baskets using very simple weave patterns with a random use of colours that had very limited end usage as per global standards. However, after the end of the training period they became more aware of the market requirements in terms of designs, colours, new weave patterns, product finishing, costing etc which they applied in developing an entire range of Moonj products which was named as “The Terai Range”.
- The women artisans had worked very hard in developing their new array of products which consisted of close to 20 marvelously handcrafted pieces that were totally apt for the modern world. This included planter baskets, lidded baskets, trays, tote baskets, two-tone animal weave baskets and much more in beautiful colours and different sizes to suit various requirements.
- The entire range of Moonj products that the Tharu women had created was given a large audience as they were put up on different well established online platforms for sale which further helped in creating market linkages for their products. The products were also made a part of different fairs held in various cities to accomplish a better outreach.
- The women artisans became more confident with their skills as they were now equipped with the knowledge of what all goes into establishing a strong foothold in the basketry craft business.