A exhibition showcasing the spectacular female carpet weavers of Mirzapur is on at Delhi’s mirzapur women fought societal norms and patriarchal practices – showing some of the most iconic stories of women empowerment.
Called Fate Lines – How the Thread Changed the Destiny of Mirzapur’s Women, the show has 65 photographs taken by journalist and photographer Kounteya Sinha from the heart of UP’s invisible villages. Each of these photographs tells the story of an incredible journey of women empowerment initiated by carpet brand Obeetee. Obeetee has trained about 1800 women in the art of carpet weaving and all of these women are now active weavers. “It is important to put forth how these women became self-sustainable and financially independent. Their dedication and hard work at display during this program makes us proud,” says Rudra Chatterjee, Chairman, Obeetee.
For 31-year-old Rekha Devi, a resident of Hirachak Dehria village in Bhadohi (Uttar Pradesh) learning carpet weaving was a passport to life. Mother of four, with an alcoholic and gambler for a husband, Rekha was at her wits end to feed her family. “We would go hungry day after day. My husband who was a weaver was very irregular with his work due to his alcoholism,” she says. Desperate to find a way to get food in the house, she would go from home to home, asking for a loan to buy food. Nobody helped. They knew she could never repay. “It was then that someone told me that Obeetee was training women in the fine art of carpet weaving and also paying them money to learn the craft, and I jumped at it,” she adds.
Today, Rekha is a master weaver who can tie around 8000 knots a day on an average and works 8-12 hours in an Obeetee run weaving centre. “Now I am able to feed my kids and even send them to school,” she smiles.
Rekha Devi is just one of the incredible stories. There are many more for you to witness at the exhibition.
“When I joined the carpet industry nearly two decades ago, I was surprised to see that there were hardly any women weavers in the workforce. I soon realised that it was because of the rigid patriarchy that governed village life – only boys were taught weaving not girls. This was unbearable for me. And we worked out a program to train women weavers,: says Gaurav Sharma, Managing Director, Obeetee.
But, it was not purely altruistic. “We were facing a worrying attrition in the weavers’ workforce with many of them migrating to cities. Often women were left behind in the villages. These women were smart, had a desire to work, and needed money. Even though we were offering free training along with a stipend, women were not forthcoming. We had to work hard to convince the village elders so that women could join. We even provided a crèche to make it easier for young mothers. Our efforts paid off,” he adds.
“The repertoire of photographs that have been taken by my team of photographers – Rajendra Mohan Pandey, Nilayan Chatterjee and Snehadeep Das – unveils the invisible life of Mirzapur’s women weavers who have greatly benefited from Obeetee’s path breaking programme giving them a life of dignity and self-worth,” says Sinha.
The exhibition is on view till July 13