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“The women of Kedarnath Valley have shown how quiet resilience and courage in the face of impossible odds can turn around a seemingly hopeless situation.”

The recent earthquakes in Nepal are a poignant reminder of the devastating floods and landslides in Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath Valley; the heartbreaking loss these people have experienced is overwhelming.

ON JUNE 16 2013 flash floods in Uttarkhand state claimed many thousands of lives; many of the victims bodies were never recovered. Most of the victims were the men in the families leaving women, children and the elderly widowed and destitute.

Almost 2 years on thanks to Mukti Datta and the Panchachuli Women Weavers, the progress from the first day of grim silence and mourning in the windswept villages to now is remarkable. The women are exuding positive energy and gather to learn from their elders and teachers, optimistic and hopeful for a better future.

Scarred by their loss, the women have been equipping themselves with various skills so that they can work and lead an independent life.

Most of the women have taken up work for the first time in their lives, saying supporting their families is their sole motivation to work. Even young girls want to pitch in by working.

A key factor in the rehabilitation of the communities has been the re-introduction of traditional craft skills of the region, weaving and spinning in particular is becoming a thriving cottage industry.

With the help of their “Mountain Sisters” from nearby Kumaon, the cooperative - Mandakani Women Weavers of Garwhal was formed. A group of 300 women and the elderly have been training in spinning, weaving and knitting and are now producing beautiful high quality products for the international market.

“The involvement of elders adds a deeper social meaning to the project.”

It is wonderful to see how the elder members of the community have found a productive place in the project in washing, scouring and carding local sheep wool and using traditional taklis to spin Peruvian Alpaca. About 50 elders in the three more remote villages have been participating in these activities.

The women of Kedarnath valley have shown how quiet resilience and courage in the face of impossible odds can turn around a seemingly hopeless situation. The rugged mountains reflect the spirit of the Uttarakhand women, indomitable and tough.

It is the women who will be the catalysts of change for a better future. A future where cottage industry in the form of hand loom, craft, and agro based products become the basis of a sustainable economy, and women are empowered economically and socially.

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