Dhaka weaving helps women to stand on own feetFor Bishnu Maya Limbu of Myanglung, Terhathum, life has changed a lot in the past one decade.
Thanks to the support of the Micro Enterprise Development Programme (Medep), a joint poverty alleviation initiative of the government of Nepal and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), she became self-employed, and has been not only earning her bread and butter but also sending her children to school with her income.
All three of her kids are studying in school, and she has used her savings to buy two plots of land of 4 annas each in Myanglung.
The story of Srijana Limbu, proprietor of Srijana Dhaka Kapada Udyog, is similar. Starting from a small dhaka industry, Limbu now has risen to a level where she provides employment to 15 women, with each of them earning around Rs 10,000 monthly. She also received support from Medep initially. Both of the entrepreneurs were provided preliminary training and some financial assistance to start their businesses.
Like these two, there are many dhaka entrepreneurs who have succeeded in improving their standard of living by selling products made of dhaka. Considered a specialty of the hilly regions in the eastern part of the country, dhaka production has been slowly providing empowerment mostly to the women in the region.
Modern designs incorporated into traditional dhaka cloth has been opening new avenues for entrepreneurs here. “Starting from a single handloom, I have expanded to 15 handlooms. Since it is difficult for women to come to a place, work all day and return home, I have instructed women to form a group and weave dhaka products as per the directions and send it to me,” said Limbu of Srijana Dhaka Kapada Udyog whose products are also being acclaimed in the overseas market.
Products like lungi, saree, shirt, tie and pachheura, among others, are making a mark in international markets like Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK apart from domestic markets like Sankhuwasabha, Jhapa, Itahari and other places in western Nepal.
“The way my products are being accepted shows that there is acceptance even in the international market if you can offer trendy and innovative designs,” said Limbu, adding that most of the products she has been exporting are made on the basis of orders. Similarly, Bishnu Maya Limbu, whose products are limited to the district, makes a profit of Rs 15,000 per month. “This is an aggregate sum total of me and my three sons, who are part-time workers here,” she said.
With the technical support of UNDP and financial assistance from Australian Aid, the government aims to create 73,000 new micro entrepreneurs and provide scale-up support to 40,000 existing micro entrepreneurs over the next five years.
According to Ram Singh Ale, president of the Federation of Terhathum Dhaka Industry, they have formed the organization with a motive to save the goodwill of dhaka products manufactured in Terhathum.
Ale said that while manufacturing dhaka was largely considered to be a traditional business until a few years ago, the thinking seems to be changing gradually with more and more people joining it. Presently, some 1,600-1,700 people are engaged in the dhaka business in Terhathum.
“The market for Terhathum’s dhaka products is estimated to be worth around Rs 20 million annually,” said Ale, adding that since all the dhaka products made here were hand-woven, demand from tourists and overseas markets was increasing. Dhaka products manufactured in Terhathum cost from around Rs 800 for a shawl to as much as Rs 15,000 for a saree.
What makes dhaka products from Terhathum different from those made in Palpa, the other renowned production centre? Cloth of different patterns, colours and designs can be produced from the same loom which isn’t possible in Palpa. “This is because our products are purely hand-woven,” he said. To promote authentic products, the federation has also registered a trade mark Menchhyayam Dhaka.