A little survey that we carried out in Tiruchirappalli district of Tamil Nadu tells us why it is extremely crucial to improve the livelihood of weaver communities to ensure that the handloom industry continues to stay exist and thrive. Natraj Nagar is home to 130 weaver families. However, only 30 of those families still depend of weaving for livelihood. Similarly, in Manamedu, there are 1200 families of whom only 250 are involved in weaving. Most of those working in the sector are suffering from exploitation, poor living conditions, extremely low wages and inaccessibility to direct market.
The handloom-based clusters are unable to sustain their livelihoods or enterprises due to its very nature of being unorganised and dispersed structure, lack of education, lack of inadequate working capital, inadequate infrastructure, poor institutional framework and absolute disassociation from modern technologies including digital and ICT. Hence, reluctance of younger generation to engage in their traditional arts and handicrafts is causing its rapid decline. Involving and engaging youth from the community is, thus, not only an integral part of the process of reviving traditional craft but also of ensuring that it sustains as a viable employment or entrepreneurial option.
It’s the same story in almost every weaver cluster of India. Therefore, DEF, in partnership with Mphasis, runs a DCDP centre in Musiri village of Tiruchirappalli district, Tamil Nadu. This centre is linked to five nearby CIRCs — Natraj Nagar, Manamedu, Thattayyangarpettai, Mangalampudur and Paithamparai. The objective of the project is to develop a traditional skill-based cluster into an integrated digitally-enabled cluster to empower artisans, entrepreneurs and other community members for socio-economic prosperity. With this in mind, the centres offer a range of services such as digital literacy training, digital services, digital citizen services, digital design classes, community mobilisation and training in vernacular languages with the help of audio visuals, among others.
In the last week of November, 170 students wrote Intel Easy Steps Examination, there by completing another batch of the basic digital literacy couse. These students were distributed their certificate of completion on December 15, 2016. Another 150 students are ready to write their exam in January 2017.