Their shawl-weaving programme was initiated as a means of weaning the women away from their traditional occupations of agriculture and animal husbandry, which degraded the forest and adversely affected the life of the community.
In the course of their travels the Samiti chanced upon women from remote villages beyond Munsiyari who wove shawls from fine pashmina wool. It emerged that this region called Johar Valley region had enjoyed very close cultural and economic ties with neighboring Tibet. Trade with Tibet through the Lipulekh Pass had been the source of fine lena wool from the Dropka and Chakpa tribes of Western Tibet, which the women had woven into shawls giving rise to a flourishing tradition. The sealing of the pass, consequent to the 1962 Indo-China hostilities caused the work to come to a standstill due to unavailability of raw material. The skills of the women were gradually being lost.
In 1995, however, there were still some women who could weave the shawls and they were first engaged to reach out to the other women. Later the Samiti re-established trade relations with Tibet resumed the supply of the fine lena wool (The undercoat of the high altitude goat) and organized the production of shawls.
1n 1997, as part of a UNICEF sponsored project about 680 women weavers from a watershed area near Binsar were organized by the Samiti to be trained into skilled artisans. It is planned to absorb these trained women in the Panchachuli Women Weavers Work which is a registered cooperative organization and managed exclusively by the women.
At present the raw wool is sheared and brought from Purang in Tibet to Dharchula in Kumaon on the backs of mules and ponies, a hazardous journey of 200 km from Dharchula it is transported by road to the project’s processing plant in Almora. Here, a high quality Scottish pashmina dehairing and carding machine, a gift from the Danny Kaye Foundation, processes the wool.
The spinning and weaving of shawls is done by hand by the women weavers’ community in the remote villages beyond Munsiyari. A fine pashmina shawls would take a month to weave, the women earning an average of Rs. 900/- to Rs. 2500/- per month. In this way the project seeks to empower the women as a means of ensuring progress in the region. The appreciation of their products and the direct methods of payment have encouraged them to improve the quality of a thousand women, are shifting from the mill spun yarn and the “modern” patterns back to indigenous ways of processing wool from its washing to its weaving entirely by hand.
Pataldevi Industrial Area,
Almora – 263601, Uttar Pradesh
Tel: 32310, 30968
Matena Top, PO Dinapani, Almora Dist
Tel: 05962 51130