fifteen women handloom weavers graduated from Mauna Dhwani’s Tanta Sathi Development Programme

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Mayurbhanj, Odisha, March 3, 2024: In a first for the Indian Handloom Industry, fifteen women handloom weavers graduated from Mauna Dhwani’s Tanta Sathi Leadership Development Programme, that guarantees them pivotal positions as Master Trainers and Centre Heads in Odisha’s Udala and GB Nagar Block of Mayurbhanj, today. This heralds a new era of fully trained women leaders characterized by inclusivity, empowerment, and the breaking of long-standing barriers that have kept women weavers in the shadows.

Manasi Patra, from Bhandagaon, emerged as the course topper and is set to become the Deputy CEO for the Tanta Gatha Women Weavers Producers Organisation – an  autonomous entity managed entirely by the women board of directors from the community trained under the aegis of the Mauna Dhwani Foundation.  A proud Manasi commented, ‘Today, I’ve broken through the barriers that held women back in our industry. My dream is to be a source of inspiration for other women, to bring new energy and ideas that will help our handloom tradition regain its past glory’.

Addressing deep-rooted inequity in Odisha’s Handloom Sector, Mauna Dhwani initiated a paradigm shift by bringing together over 500 women across 50 villages and 12 centres, empowering them to transition from novices to expert artisans within two years. This five year  journey began in 2019, using indigenous jute and cotton, involved mastering handloom weaving, natural dyeing, hand spinning, embroidery, and tailoring, thereby reviving the Region’s unique textile heritage.

Tanta Sathi, launched in June, 2023, is a 600 hour Programme, spread over six months.  It includes milestones of reviews, examinations, and viva sessions, facilitating a nuanced evaluation process that categorized participants as either ‘ready now’ or ‘ready in the next 12-18 months’. The selection process was meticulously crafted to identify women with potential for leadership, leading to the formation of a pioneering cohort of 26 women ready to challenge and redefine the industry standards, of which 15 graduated today.

Mauna Dhwani was ably assisted by the Weavers Service Centre (WSC), Bhubaneshwar, and the Assistant Director Textiles, Mayurbhanj in the area of imparting functional skills for the cohort.  In addition, the curriculum emphasised operational and leadership skills to contribute to the revitalisation of the handloom clusters in Mayurbhanj and navigate community and workplace challenges.

Speaking on the occasion, Bindu Vinodhan, Founder, Mauna Dhwani, and the curator of Tanta Sathi, said, “Tanta Sathi’s graduation ceremony is a formal acknowledgment of the participants’ hard-earned skills and knowledge.  Fifteen ‘ready now’ graduates will take on significant positions as Master Trainers and Centre Heads, a role traditionally reserved for men, spearheading the first wave of handloom centres to be fully led, run, and managed by women.  Through their courage, determination, and leadership, the women Tanta Sathi are weaving a new narrative for the handloom sector, one where gender equality and mutual respect form the foundation of a vibrant and sustainable future. This has inspired us to have the first gender inclusive handloom school in the country with the focus on the children of the handloom weavers of the region in particular and Odisha in general.”

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