A cooperative of over 150 indigenous women was created in Northeast India to help them earn steadier livelihood from their traditional art of weaving. These artisans live in an area that has been mired in conflict for over a decade and is not only economically but also environmentally unstable. Annual, unpredictable monsoon flooding devastates farmland in this agriculture-dependent region. As a result of these instabilities, many people experience poverty and landlessness. This cooperative was formed as a project of a local non-governmental organization. It was designed to tap into the existing skills of weavers, to expand income opportunities for women. They made a commitment to work specifically with the poorest of the weavers in this region and continue to do so today. The group steadily grew, forming a trust. Each woman is a partial owner, able to participate in discussions and elect board members annually. In addition to pay based on volume of fabric produced, women also receive bonuses and medical coverage. This program offers a crucial source of cash income for artisan families, ensuring fair and steady income to weavers. The founding NGO continues to reach out to the poorest weavers through a program which offers scholarships for the poor, especially those with no land or permanent home, to enroll in a three to four-month training program. Girls and women are taught a useful and wide range of both academic and practical skills during this time. They earn money throughout the program and at the end of the program, they have the opportunity to join the cooperative if they choose.
Sustainability & Fair Trade
Hand-woven using bamboo looms
Traditional fabric - undyed or dyed with local plant-based dyes
Fair, steady income
Employing indigenous women artisans
Artisan representative model allows for a great deal of artisan participation and input
Work from home option, allows greater flexibility
Medical coverage and annual bonuses
Member of Fair Trade Forum India
Artisans are able to learn skills that help them renegotiate their social position in their families and communities. The cooperative organization aids in women coming together, providing more opportunities for their agency on key issues. They also have more possibilities to be able to provide education to their children, and to acquire comforts to make their day-to-day tasks easier.