What’s hemp got to do with women’s empowerment? A lot. And handloom is the link between the two. Let’s find out how we can weave women empowerment with hemp.
Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand is a unique place.
It is beautiful. With the Himalayas in the backdrop and rosy, cold weather.
But the employment opportunities? Non-existent.
You can hardly expect entrepreneurs to establish industries in the hilly terrain.
Plus, the soil grows nothing much. Water for irrigation also isn’t very readily available.
So men migrate to other places in the state.
Or even outside the state. Of course, to earn a better living for their families.
Sounds fair enough. Men migrate to work and meet their needs, right?
But they don’t just leave behind their brick-and-mortar houses.
The women are left behind too.
With wailing children and ailing elderly.
Their farms don’t produce much.
They have no source of income.
No financial independence.
And their own voice?
They don’t have a voice. Their only voice is in the form of muffled screams asking for help. Silent cries for independence. Freedom. Liberation.
But these women are not unskilled or incapable.
They are skilled farmers.
They were born here and have grown up on farms.
They might have forgotten it, but cultivation runs in their blood.
They are also very creative.
They can weave and stitch.
They can create beautiful patterns and bring out vibrant stories on fabrics.
All they need is a little training.
However, they also don’t have fibers to weave.
So, why don’t these women cultivate cotton on their farms?
The farms are barren, infertile. The weather isn’t suitable. Water is unavailable.
But we can still use idle handlooms to weave women empowerment. Give these women jobs, financial independence, a sense of self-worth, and their voice.
Weave what, now?
What? Hemp, Handloom, Women Empowerment. All This Doesn’t Fit Together.
Well, it does.
It is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. We start with hemp, use handlooms, and end with empowered, self-sufficient women with a distinctive voice of their own.
Hemp Grows Anywhere.
Even in the cold, dry valley of Uttarakhand. It requires only 50% of the water that would be needed for cotton production. So lack of irrigation water won’t be an issue.
Hemp doesn’t need pesticides or insecticides, or even fertilizers. It is insect and pest-resistant and resilient to diseases. So it doesn’t need much initial investment.
Plus, it grows tall within 90 to 120 days. And it gives back nutrients to the soil. So in the subsequent cropping season, it can potentially help grow something else on the same plot of land. Hemp can also be grown again on the field, for up to 2 decades.
If you wear hemp clothes, it will give you the following benefits:
- It is anti-microbial.
- Hemp clothes are lightweight.
- The fabric is breathable and absorbs sweat keeping you cool.
- Hemp clothes won’t show recent signs of wear and tear.
- It is also extremely durable, with 8 times the tensile strength of cotton, it won’t wear or tear easily.
- It dries quickly and dyes well. Color options are plenty, and designs and patterns too.
- Hemp can be mixed with other fabrics to create blends that bring the best of two fabrics together.
- Contrary to popular opinion, hemp fabric doesn’t feel like you are wearing a rucksack. What’s more, it gets even softer with regular use.
But you aren’t the only beneficiary of hemp clothes.
Mother Nature shares the pleasures of hemp fabric with you.
Hemp is a carbon-negative crop. This means the plant sequesters more carbon dioxide from the environment that is given off its production and processing.
Also, hemp’s long roots bind the soil and prevent erosion. In hilly areas like villages in Uttarakhand, this means that help crops can also reduce the incidence and intensity of soil erosion.
Okay, but isn’t hemp something related to marijuana?
I know they are different, but still, is hemp even legal?
Yes, Hemp is Legal.
Industrial hemp, which contains less than 0.3% of THC (the high-inducing psychoactive substance in marijuana), is legal to grow and use.
So, if we use hemp fabric to empower the women in Uttarakhand, they won’t be doing some shady business.
Hemp Fabric Can Revive The Handloom Industry.
Hemp is a fabric that is fit for daily wear and the runway. Hemp blends can be used to make almost any type of clothing. It is good for the environment. It is cost-effective because it takes fewer chemical resources to grow.
It ticks all the boxes when it comes to what we need to revive the handloom industry.
The handloom industry – the pride of ancient India – was solely dependent on cotton as the primary raw material. But synthetic fibers made cotton financially unsustainable. And also, people especially woke millennials started to realize that cotton was a natural disaster in the making. The number of chemicals it needed, the amount of water that it consumed, and the damage it did to the soil were eye-opening.
But hemp can fix all those gaping holes. I often talk about hemp can revive our handloom industry.
I have said it before, and I’d say it again. Hemp is the messiah that we didn’t know we needed. It will bring the handloom industry back to life. And also re-establish our pride and position in the textile world. And then…
Revival of The Handloom Industry Will Jumpstart The Process Of Women Empowerment
Maximum Indian weavers are? Women.
Who was the worst hit by the decline of the handloom industry? Women.
Who suffered the financial, social, emotional, and psychological brunt of the handloom industry’s decline? Women.
So who would benefit if we bring back handloom from the back of rusty storerooms to the limelight?
If hemp can fuel the comeback of handloom, handloom can ignite the flame of woman empowerment.
Here’s how the events will unfold:
- Hemp will be cultivated in the fields in rural Uttarakhand.
- These women can work on the farms.
- Then hemp fiber collected from the fields would need to be weaved into fabric.
- Old handlooms with the dust settled on them will be cleaned. New ones would be purchased.
- And women will get employment as hemp weavers. They’d use handlooms to turn hemp fiber into the fabric.
Heard of ‘From Farm To The Fork’?
These handlooms will take hemp from the farm to the runway and your wardrobe.
On the surface of it, it looks like hemp and handloom would just give these women in Uttarakhand employment opportunities. But there is much more to it.
When these women would start making money for themselves, they’d be able to feed their children. And also feed their hunger for doing something worthwhile.
Somewhere in between the sounds of functioning handlooms, these would get their voices back.
There have been scores of research studies that prove that with financial independence comes empowerment. Women just need their tools to break the glass ceilings of patriarchy, smash the binding chains of poverty, and break free from everything that is holding them back.
And weaving hemp isn’t the complete process. Their husbands could come back to the villages to work in hemp processing units. The families could reunite.
All this sounds too dreamy. Almost utopian. It does paint a good picture on my screen but will it actually work?
Yes, it will.
How are you so sure?
Because I have seen it happen. I have been a part of several women’s journeys of emancipation.
Remember the floods that wreaked havoc in Kedarnath in 2013? You probably could have forgotten about it. But for some women in Uttarakhand, not a day goes by when they don’t think of those times.
These women had lost all men in their families to the flood.
With no earning members, they were left with nothing. Government grants, NGO donations, and compassionate individuals kept their bellies filled for the first few days.
Slowly as the water of Bhagirathi receded from their villages, their aids and funding disappeared too. These women had no source of income anymore.
But having worked in Uttarakhand and studied the pulse of the state’s villages, I knew what I could do for them. With Hemp Foundation, I made sure these women learned how to use handlooms.
Their forefathers had given birth to the craft. I just reintroduced it to them. Soon these women weren’t helpless. They were handloom weavers.
In India, we say our destiny lies in the criss-cross lines on the front of our palms. With hemp, these women wove their own destiny. The floods might have washed their happy lives away. But these women knew better than to give up. They stood up again. Stronger this time. Financially independent. Empowered.
All I and Hemp Foundation did was give these women hemp and handloom. Rest was in their hands. And the results are out in the open, for anyone and everyone to take inspiration from.
Weaving Women Empowerment With Hemp – Why Don’t You Take The First Step Today?
I have now told you how hemp and handloom are the keys to women’s empowerment. And along the journey, they also heal the scars of industrial and synthetic havoc on our Mother Earth.
Now it is your turn.
Switch to hemp. Take the first step. And do your bit towards empowering women.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]