Dr Sheela Suryanarayana from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) and her research team recently visited several districts in Telangana to gather information on handloom workers. Their goal is to use GIS software to geo-code handloom households and analyze the data to identify community needs. They are particularly interested in studying the occupational health status of handloom workers, women’s empowerment, and marketing. The findings will be used to provide policy inputs.
Dr Sheela Suryanarayana explains that women play an active role in the handloom sector, working full-time alongside men while also managing household responsibilities. While some women are weavers, most are involved in allied roles and often receive lower wages than men. However, men recognize the important contribution of women to their work. When a man working on the loom passes away, women often take up only allied tasks and may not have access to specific health insurance. The nature of occupational health issues varies among different clusters of handloom workers.
The SFRUTI programs have had some success in the handloom sector but face challenges in making a significant impact. Men tend to participate more in these programs, and women are not always the primary beneficiaries due to a lack of awareness. In Telangana, many handloom workers have bank accounts and access to education and mobile devices, but these resources are not fully utilized. More efforts are needed to actively involve women in marketing and empower them within the handloom sector.
There are issues with geo-indexing handlooms, and some individuals engaged in handloom activities are not officially recognized as handloom workers. These challenges, along with marketing difficulties and the high cost of materials, contribute to keeping handloom workers at lower income levels. Extensive studies on the handloom sector are necessary to preserve this traditional art form. Measures should be taken to ensure that handloom workers are not underpaid and that the sector is adequately protected. Investments are needed to support and rejuvenate the handloom sector, as many workers are facing health challenges and becoming paralyzed. It is crucial to address the well-being and livelihoods of handloom workers and preserve this cultural heritage.