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Khadi : The ‘Fabric of Empowerment’ in India

The nationwide lockdown slumped demand in most sectors bringing the economy to a crashing halt. And the most deeply impacted have been the daily wage workers. There is a large percentage of rural and semi-urban India that work in the handicraft and handloom sector which employs about 4.6 lakh artisans. This crisis has let to unemployment leaving the artisans struggling for their daily bread and butter.

A sustainable fashion social enterprise, Rewanta has launched the #PledgekhadiEmpowerWeavers initiative under the Reclaim Khadi Movement movement that aims to extend support to weavers and artisans by enabling them to earn a dignified living by creating a positive demand cycle for Khadi.

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IANSlife spoke to Ashwini Pable, co-founder of Rewanta, to know more about the initiative, the impact of the lockdown on the community, and how Rewanta is working towards its upliftment. Read excerpts:

Tell us more about the initiative.

Pable: With Rewanta, we have been working with the khadi artisans of India to create contemporary fashion. With the #PledgeKhadiEmpowerWeavers initiative, we aim to create an opportunity for artisans to earn a dignified livelihood to combat the setback of the lockdown and keep them from slipping back into the cycle of poverty. Our objective here is to create a positive demand cycle by addressing the nation to pledge one khadi garment in their wardrobes during this lockdown period.

Pledging one khadi garment will create multiple benefits-just one garment will support an artisan’s livelihood for a week. It will also help build adoption of the sustainable khadi fabric revealing its comfort and style quotient to newer users. Alongside this, users will enjoy the good energy of these hand-spun and hand-woven swadeshi items.

How are you working towards it?

Pable: Khadi has proven that it has covered the journey from “Khadi as a fabric of freedom” to “Khadi as a fabric of fashion” now is featured on the clothes racks of most top-end designers in the country. Considering the vast ecosphere of artisans that work in the Khadi sector, with this initiative our endeavor is to establish it as a “fabric of empowerment” too.

Making khadi the 'fabric of empowerment'
The users will enjoy the good energy of these hand-spun and hand-woven swadeshi items. Flickr

Our solution aims to create an opportunity for 10,000 artisans to begin with, which will expand to include more artisans as the campaign helps demand soar. The financial impact of this campaign is to weave 10 lakh meter khadi fabric that will be further designed to create 250,000 garments for customers. The objective is to not look for a stop-gap arrangement this time, but truly create self-reliant and sustainable artisan clusters which provide value to the customer while building business models that generate respectful livelihood opportunities for weavers.

To what extent the community has been impacted by the pandemic?

Pable: Most of these 4.6 lakh weavers are associated with Khadi certified institutions who provide them work. 20 percent of these “A class” certified institutions could provide support to these artisans out of their surplus up until now which is now drying up. However the remaining 80 percent of them are struggling for survival already as the demand cycle has come to a halt.

It is a crisis situation in the smaller weaver dependent villages as these people work like wage earners weaving fabric and getting paid for it every day. With all of it gone they literally have no cash in hand and may die of pure hunger and disease.

How long do you think it will take to bring back businesses on track?

Making khadi the 'fabric of empowerment'
Objective here is to create a positive demand cycle by addressing the nation to pledge one khadi garment in their wardrobes during this lockdown period. Flickr

Pable: This needs to be a sustainable activity and not a one time activity. If we are able to restart the demand cycle which is what this initiative of Reclaim Khadi is targeting, then we should be able to generate demand and start the economic activity within two months times and sustain it for a long time.

Tell us more about Rewanta and its role in the upliftment of the community.

Pable: We have been working with khadi artisans of India for the last two years under our high-end fashion label PABLE. This has brought us in close contact with the weavers and artisans in the sector and working on the ground has pushed into deeper clarity the factors that impede this sector’s integration into the mainstream. Rewanta is the social initiative to spread awareness of the philosophy of good energy clothing, slow fashion as well as Khadi’s ability to be a climate-friendly, breathable, zero-carbon footprint fabric.

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The positioning of Khadi has always been very traditional which hampers its widespread integration into the fashion arena. Rewanta aims to educate people on the possibilities of khadi in terms of style, fashion as well as empowerment of a sector that holds the potential to be a super Indian brand.

Through creating a deeper awareness, the intent is to build sustainable business models that allow for self-reliant artisan communities to spring up across the nation through consistently positive demand. (IANS)

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