Sita Vasuniya – A Symbol Of Women Empowerment For The Tribal Community

Sita Vasuniya, a tribal woman from Madhya Pradesh has been featured in the Italian edition of the world’s premier fashion magazine, Vogue Italia. She is seen wearing a Maheshwar handloom saree, which was block printed by herself. The feature photo was shot by a Delhi-based fashion photographer at the Rani Roopmati Mahal, a tourist hotspot in Dhar district. 25-year-old Sita is the mother of a two-year-old baby boy and resides in Panala village of Madhya Pradesh. She says, “When I started training in February, I had never dreamt of being featured even in a local newspaper forget about figuring in a premier fashion magazine. I still can’t believe it!” 

Sita is part of the Dhara self-help group (SHG) comprising ten women, functioning under the Madhya Pradesh government’s ‘Ek Jila Ek Utpaad’ (One District One Product) scheme, under the Atmanirbhar Madhya Pradesh Mission. Saloni Sidana (additional district magistrate (ADM) of Dhar) says, “Dhar district is famous for its fabric printing art, including the Bagh print, Dabu, and Batik prints. Under the state government’s Ek Jila Ek Utpad scheme, the Dhar district administration focused on training young girls and women in these traditional styles of fabric printing and then created market linkages for those products. All the girls and women of all three groups were trained in fabric printing art first. Then experts and designers from reputed academic institutions, including Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), and National Institute of Design (NID) were roped in to study and experiment with newer designs to penetrate more into the global market. Subsequently, a lookbook was developed to showcase the sarees printed by all three groups.”

Two other women SHGs, Suraj and Chandani specialize in Bagh fabric printing and Dhara specializes in Dabu, Batik, block-printing, hand painting and thread work. A total of 30 women are becoming self-reliant by working in fabric printing art as part of these SHGs. The Lookbook was created to showcase their products to the fashion world, but what made it distinctive was the decision to use the tribal girls and women (who printed these handloom sarees), instead of professional models for the photo-shoots.

Saloni said that “The results of our experimentation is for all to see, Sita featuring in her own block printed handloom saree on the Vogue Italia digital edition is just the beginning. While homegrown fashion and designer labels from Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Bhopal have already started booking orders with the three groups, Sita’s picture in the premier fashion magazine has resulted in a series of more calls. We’re confident that in the coming months, not only Sita, but the other young girls and women will turn self-dependent and earn livelihood on their own with their creative splendours,”

More power to you women!

News Article by Deepa Perumal

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