The earthquake that struck Gujarat in 2001 had reduced to rubble Bejiben Rabari’s hut along with her entire village in Varsamedi. Her husband and son survived but she lost her daughter. For several years, Bejiben waited for compensation. When that did not come, a year ago she joined a local centre in her village to learn stitching. Today, she earns Rs 3,000 every month, and her handwoven rugs are sold in several countries as handcrafted Kutch work.
On Saturday, she along with another villager, Megiben Rabari, stepped out of Gujarat for the first time to display their work at the Kala Ghoda Festival in Mumbai. “We lived in extreme poverty and I knew nothing. Now we have these four hours everyday to look forward to when we stitch and earn,” she says as she displays her colourful works.
Watch What Else Is Making News
Using textile scrap collected from nearby textile factories, Kutch women have started knitting and weaving rugs, cushion covers and bags that are sold in the international market such as Europe, Canada, the US and UK. Most are women affected by the earthquake. According to Megiben, while she did not lose any family member, her house, cattle and farms were destroyed by the quake.
“My husband is a farmer. Our land was also gone,” she said.
There are eight members in her family and she started looking for work to earn more. “But women cannot go very far from home for work. When the centre opened near our village, I started going there,” she said.
There are about eight centres in Gujarat opened under the name ‘Spun’, where over 800 women have been skilled in hand-weaving and stitching to earn a livelihood.
“Through this initiative, we have been addressing both social and environmental issues. Spun has helped empower women in Kutch, who were just a few years ago facing a number of hardships,” said Dipali Goenka, CEO and joint MD of Welspun India Limited that runs textile factories and is using scrap material for these women.
About 260 women are employed to create art work out of such scrap material after they are trained in the centres that have been opened close to villages for easy access.