Tahmina Bibi sits in perfect calm while her hands make uniform movements repeatedly. This is the scene with most of the resident women in the Kakraburi village of Assam. Even at 55 years of age, Tahmina is glued to her hobby of hand spinning the yarn. This, over the years, has helped her sustain her family. She learned the art when she was only 18. “Hand spinning gives me the liberty to move around freely or to talk to other fellow women in my village without hampering the work productivity.” Hand spinning seems to be a skill that the local resident women consider a mandatory part of their everyday lives. Therefore, it was no surprise to know that her daughter, Sahida Begum, a mother of two (boy and a girl), picked up the skill at an even younger age of 15 from her mother. She has been practicing this art for 20 years now. “Earlier the spinning work brought a very low income; it was a tiresome task to collect the cocoons and then find markets to sell them at. We always struggled to fetch a decent price for the threads we produced” expressed Sahida, remembering the time she first practiced the skill for income generation.
ICCo recognized this need and decided to intervene. With the help of its local partner, Grameen Sahara, ICCo worked on converting the personal usage of Eri Silk into an organized cluster activity. Sahida is one of the beneficiaries of this intervention and a member of one such cluster. She, at present, is also the Centre Manager for her cluster. As a Centre Manager, she plays a dynamic facilitative role. She not only maintains records (e.g. monthly collection of yarn) but also handles problems pertaining to production within the group, for example identifying reasons behind delays in production by individual members.). She feels proud of the fact that she has transited from being a shy child into an empowered woman who now endeavours to capacitate others around her. With capacity building trainings through the project on improving skills and marketing of products, many others like Sahida have enhanced their earnings. The comparison is stark. Whereas earlier, Tahmina and Sahida could jointly earn INR 50-60 per month for their hard labour, now with better skills, Sahida by herself is able to produce higher quality threads and earns higher rates between INR 500-1000 every month for her work.
Her mother is happy with the development. She credits the capacity building training and the marketing support by ICCo for the value addition in Sahida’s skills. With the steady progress in her work, Sahida is optimistic about the future. Having learned the skill from her mother, she seeks to pass on the traditional skills and her learnings from the capacity strengthening trainings onto her daughter, hoping that the third generation would enhance the quality of the end product by at least three times.