Weavers offer more than rugs

Standing in front of chairs draped with vibrant fabrics, Radhika Gajjala, associate professor of communications, presented the last issue of the weekly Brown Bag Lunch series sponsored by the University’s Women’s Center.

Topics of the hour-long lunch discussion surrounded Gajjala’s research in southern India as an honorary member within Dastkar Audhra, an Indian based Non-Governmental Organization.

Goals of the NGO include helping Indian male and female weavers find sustainable markets for their weaved fabrics, both from within India and globally.

“Hand-loom weavers represent the second largest livelihood in rural India – second only to agriculture. However, because export markets are fickle [the Dastkar Audhra] NGO helps to sustain the weaver’s livelihood by connecting them to markets,” explained Gajjala yesterday afternoon.

And connecting these fabrics to sustainable markets is where a part of Gajjala’s role in the NGO comes into play.

She, as an advocate for the Indian weavers, works to find entrepreneurial people around Wood County which have ideas and strategies on how to best market these fabrics made from traditional large Indian looms.

It is then her role to act as a representative and help see that orders are placed and the differing ideas which people have, become reality.

Gajjala pointed out that the fabrics which the Indian’s are weaving are very versatile and have an endless potential of use.

Examples of the fabrics versatility include the material being made into products such as different styles of clothing and hand bags, drapery, curtains, table runners, and even living room decorations.

Gajjala further addresses the eco-friendly nature of the fabrics as the weavers use mostly natural dyes to form the beautiful colors.

Mary Krueger, director of the women’s center and member of yesterday’s lunch audience, explained her reasoning for asking Gajjala to present this particular product.

Krueger commented that her reasoning for inviting Gajjala to present at the last Brown bag included her hope that with the warmer weather members of the audience would be able to purchase some of the fabric she had on display, thus furthering the market for the Indian weavers.

Also, Krueger found it important for the average collegiate student to break away from the need to always wear brand-names or designer logos in their clothing choices.

“I would want others to think outside of what everything else looks like, and not to be the same and clones of everyone else,” said Krueger.

Concluding her presentation, Gajjala answered questions including one from a female member of the audience member who was concerned about the victimization of the weavers through her knowledge of other NGO’s.

Gajjala cautioning against individuals and NGO’s which would perpetuate the theme of a third world victim that rises above their oppressions as a result of selling products to the western world.

In Gajjala’s eyes this does a huge disservice to the weavers, because simply selling products will not help these weavers. Rather, what will help them in the long-term is the creation of a sustainable market both internally and globally.

Currently Gajjala is continuing her research and work with the NGO, as well as accepting ideas for marketing improvements with the fabric from within the Bowling Green community.

Editors Note: If faculty, students, and/or community members have ideas and are personally motivated to fulfill their ideas, on how to market and sell Indian fabrics, they should contact Radhika Gajjala at [email protected].