Launching a Training Center for Women Artisans
It is estimated that by intensively training cohorts of twenty-five women over a six-week to two-month period, around three hundred new skilled artisans can enter the district workforce at the apprentice level per year. A considerable number of these women will have likely been “unpaid weavers” in their home. In addition, the center plans to be able to upskill and reskill experienced weavers.
Through donor support and upon completion of the research study in Phase One of this Project, WFI can address the need for highly skilled women weavers in the Aurangabad District who can contribute to the economic wellbeing of their families, their community, and the country. These women safeguard an important aspect of India’s cultural heritage: the modernization of a centuries-old process that needs to have a new audience.
While this area has typically benefited from its proximity to the UNESCO Heritage sites of Ellora and Ajanta, the Covid pandemic decreased tourism and depressed the area. Now, WFI offers a plan to establish an ongoing artisan training program in cooperation with two fashion educational institutions and Faisal Quraishi, the Managing Director of Aurangabad’s acclaimed Himroo Factory. Mr. Quraishi is also co-founder of ZariZar.
The need: The irreplaceable role of women artisans in rural India: According to the India Ministry of Textiles in October 2021, the Handloom Sector is one of the largest “unorganized economic activities”, and it constitutes an integral part of the rural and semi-rural livelihood engaging over thirty-five lakh persons (numerically 3,500,000). The sector engages over twenty-five lakh (2,500,000) female weavers and allied workers which makes it an important source of economic empowerment of women. Handloom weaving also constitutes one of the richest and most vibrant aspects of the Indian cultural heritage. The sector has advantage of being less capital intensive, minimal use of power, ecofriendly, flexibility of small production, openness to innovations and adaptability to market requirements.
The challenge: Bridging supply and demand. Because of the uniqueness and exclusivity of designs, capability to produce small batch sizes and being ecofriendly fabric, handloom products are in high demand in international and domestic markets.
Discerning retailers seek a reliable source for a constant, regular supply of authentic handloom products. However, handloom weavers, being unorganized, face problems in supplying their products for large orders in absence of systemized production wherein they may cater to rigorous standards of quality and timely delivery. Therefore, there is a need to bridge the gap through infrastructure development, skill up-gradation, design and product development as per the market demand so that weavers get better remuneration for their products and an assured market. Through sustained efforts of the Ministry of Textiles, there has been significant development of the handloom sector which is now able to sustain the competition with machine made fabrics. However, handloom products remain far from reaching their potential.
The dynamic solution: WFI together with our university teams and partners on the ground can lay the foundation for a comprehensive, sustainable training center in rural India. This includes determining and beginning implementation of the following:
Greenfield construction v. repurposing designing an existing structure, which seems more advantageous under India’s building regulations.
What is the ideal location, balancing accessibility and cost in the Aurangabad District, e.g., proximity to a National Highway v. high rent?
What are the demographics of the women students in terms of geographic range and other factors? How will they be notified?
Who will staff the center in terms of master weavers and what should be their compensation?
What administrative and support staff does the center need?
How many trainees can the center handle initially via an estimated twenty looms? Can the center efficiently provide upskilling for current weavers as well as an introductory curriculum for those new to the craft? What stipend should they receive?
What residential accommodations might the center arrange for trainees and their families?
Can the center function as a production house during non-training hours?
What levels of certification should the center have to designate levels of course completion, tenure, and competence, e.g., Trainee, Apprentice, Journeyperson, and Master?
How will the center be publicized to the private sector as well as local, state and national government (including the Ministry of Textiles and Handloom Commission in Delhi)?
Launching the Training Center: Our funding will go directly into addressing and implementing solutions for the above key questions, resulting in the launch of a sustainable training center in Aurangabad for women Himroo weavers in 2024. As it grows, additional funding is currently being identified to ensure sustainability and expansion of the facility.
The Modernization and Globalization of an Ancient Art:
In the 13th century, when he pioneered the linkage of East and West, Marco Polo marveled at the beauty of Himroo fabrics. He felt they were worthy of the kings and queens of Europe. As this program links East and West, the benefits would be inestimable for the women served. It will prepare them for roles in the 21st century global economy. It will take a major step towards modernizing and globalizing the ancient art of Himroo, one of India’s gifts to the world that furthers the fashion industry’s increasing present focus on sustainability.
Educating a New generation of Urban American and Indian Design Students on the Value of Artisanship:
This program will also have an empowering impact on our student researchers who can marvel at ancient art and its practitioners. They will see that intricate beauty need not pollute and waste the environment. Most important, they will share the dreams of skilled, creative village women, forging lifelong connections in WFI’s spirit of unity, collaboration, and service to humanity.
We invite you to join us in this journey.
 See National Handloom Development Program (NHDP), Government of India, October 2021, http://handlooms.nic.in/assets/img/Handloom%20Schemes/final%20book%208%20Nov%2021.pdf
 Ibid/Note the Ministry’s latest Annual Report notes that many women loom workers are in the category of unpaid women labor, not yet finding markets for their wares. See http://texmin.nic.in/sites/default/files/AR_Ministry_of_Textiles_%202021-22_Eng.pdf
Founded by two entrepreneurs in the Aurangabad area of Maharashtra, ZariZar sells luxury had-woven shawls in the United States. The company builds on an established a network of master weavers that, with their apprentices, has become one of the most renowned and honored in India. Their skill and patience enables them to spend days and even weeks at their looms, crafting a single magnificent shawl as a work of art With ZariZar, this network of craftspeople is entering the globalized world of high fashion, using the most refined silk, Kashmiri wool, and zari threads to weave luxurious patterns for customers with universal tastes.
Read more about how Faisal Quraishi, co-owner of ZariZar, is supporting women weavers in Aurangabad:
Thank you to our supporting partners: