At Risk From Trafficking, a Traditional Skill is Empowering Northeast's Women

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At Risk From Trafficking, a Traditional Skill is Empowering Northeast's Women

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A social enterprise initiative called Brand Empower by Shillong-based non-governmental organisation Impulse is empowering about 5,000 rural women.

Golaghat:  Rekha Doley, a 25-year-old mother of two in Assam, talks about dealing with the Brahmaputra Valley's devastating annual floods with as much as ease she does about cooking.

Almost every year, the floods inundate her village Panbari, threatening her community and forcing them to migrate in search of work, she says. And often young women like her get caught in the web of human trafficking, she says.

The National Crime Records Bureau data of 2013 shows in the first 10 months of 2013, an average of 10 women were trafficked every day.

Guwahati-based women and child rights activist Miguel D Queah says, "A lot of these people cannot go back to their traditional mode of livelihood. A lack of social and government support leads them to a hot bed for trafficking. Districts like Dhemaji have seen a spurt in trafficking cases. Statistically in the last five years over 5,000 women have been trafficked from the state."

But off late, something has changed. A social enterprise initiative called Brand Empower by Shillong-based non-governmental organisation Impulse is empowering about 5,000 rural women in Northeast India using their traditional skill of weaving.

"Earlier I used to weave only for household purposes. I never thought of selling my products until I joined Impulse. It felt great to see my products being taken and appreciated in Delhi. I want to now train many women in my community," Rekha tells NDTV.

Taking these women, some of the finest weavers in Assam, back to their roots and enabling them to market their products is keeping women away from the hands of human traffickers, experts say.

"These women know their traditional art very well but they get lost in marketing and product specification. That is where we come in," says Maitreyi, Business Development Manager, of Brand Empower. "The products have been very well received in the international market," she adds.

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