Self Help Groups (SHGs) are the main conduit for the majority of our programming. SHGs are semi-autonomous savings and credit organizations that also function as a support network to address weaving and social issues. HLWDS' SHGs assists women in becoming independent producers of handloomed products. They assist women weavers in purchasing material supplies, weaving accessories and equipment. They also act as a safety net for participants who may borrow for urgent consumption needs. Through these SHGs women weavers are able to break their exploitative arrangements with master weavers and to end cycles of debt. Currently, we work 731 SHGs in 51 villages.
HLWDS works to improve the livelihoods of weavers by providing production assistance aimed at overcoming the obstacles of scarce supplies, shrinking resources, lagging technological improvements and competitive markets (i.e. power loom). We also try to provide alternatives to exploitative supply and marketing arrangements with master weavers and bogus handloom societies. Our production assistance activities include:
Seasonal Inputs Provision
Equipment /Inputs Loans
Product Diversification Training
HLWDS fights to retain government support for the handloom industry through campaigning, networking and lobbying. Through our handloom advocacy program, we provide a voice to handloom weavers across Kerala. Some of the activities include:
Handloom Advocates Awareness
Occupational Health Hazards
HLWDS works to reduce occupational health hazards and injuries among weavers and their families. It is far too common for weavers to suffer from a variety of occupational health hazards including respiratory ailments from breathing in particulate dust in poorly ventilated workspaces and repetitive motion injuries that leave many weavers disabled. Through ILS, we have documented these health problems and presented them to government officials in an effort to raise awareness of the plight of the weavers. Currently, HLWDS conducts health training around issues of occupational diseases (respiratory illness and repetitive motion injury).
Education and Child Labor
Through ILS, the HLWDS learned that there were high levels of child labor and overall low levels of education among HLWDS members. To address these problems, HLWDS established day cares centers, non-formal education programs for adults and children, vocational training, and cultural programmes that aim to decrease child labor and increase the level of education among weaving families.
HLWDS also works with gender equity issues by raising awareness, supporting advocacy efforts, and training leaders to address gender bias and discrimination issues. Our gender work is primarily facilitated through SHGs.
Research and documentation activities have been continually carried out over the past 13 years despite the fact that HLWDS only acquired its first computer in May of 2000. These activities are essential to keep abreast of changes in the handloom sector and to strengthen our programmes and advocacy efforts.
The core of our research activities includes gathering information on medicinal plants and their cultivation. Through our research we have developed 150 new ayurvedic dyes. Our findings are housed in our resource library, which is fully accessible to our members.
Our documentation activities are essential to our programmes. They largely center around gathering information about the conditions prevailing in the handloom sector. We also document technological innovation in the sector.
Handloom Weavers Development Society (HLWDS) began to do ayurvedic dyeing on fabric and yarn and developed Medicinal Cloth brand of Ayurvedic handloom materials like shirts, Mundus, Churidars, Saris, Bed sheets, Shawls, etc. These products were developed based on our age old ethnic knowledge and traditional ayurvedic dyeing technology, which we have gained from our ancestors like Sir C.R Ayyappan Vaidyan, Neelakandan Vaidyan and Damodaran Vaidyan.
Medicinal Cloth brand of Ayurvedic handloom dress materials for different diseases are developed using specific medicinal plants for dyeing the clothes. From the research results obtained from the experiment, which has been conducted in Ayurvedic College, Trivandrum shows very encouraging results as patient underwent this treatment technique benefited immensely and experienced an early curing process. There are special cloth kit for rheumatism, blood pressure, diabetic, psoriasis, Itch, Asthma, reducing obesity and also the ayurvedic clothes for giving mental pleasure and reducing tension.