Khasi Women Wisdom

Update posted by Jessica White On Oct 08, 2016

Iba Blah is one of the women who is increasing sustainable livelihoods for women and youth within the region of Meghalaya. I will be documenting her efforts through storytelling that will be made visible through an interactive exhibition on the Google Cultural Institute.

Iba, as pictured above is working on a bee-keeping project which was funded by the FAO. She was responsible for its' implementation after completion of the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in the project villages.

Iba has been working with Hasina Kharbhih and the Impulse Initiative to give women a platform to work and develop their crafts that are intrinsically linked to their traditions. Many of these women have been at risk of human trafficking. Giving these women a platform for their skills to work and trade with their hand made crafts fairly, they are protected through both work and visibility taking them out of the shadows that once held them.

She is currently working as the Director of the United Fruit Company (UFC) Ltd. in Shillong. Since the change in business that took place in the early 70’s the company has been distributing cooking fuel in the form of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to about 27,000 customers in Shillong city and its outskirts. Iba has been managing the marketing division of the company since 2002 and has played and important role in rapid grown of the company.

Before joining the UFC she was managing the outsourcing and telemarketing division of Dell Computers in New Delhi. Iba has BA in Economics from St. Mary's College in Shillong and an MBA in Marketing from the New Delhi Institute of Management. While she was working at the Secretary of Youth Affairs for the Meghalaya United Nations Association, she was involved in planning and implementing of an array of youth-led sustainable development projects in the state, attending high level meetings in Delhi to give youth a voice and inclusive representation.

She was selected as a youth delegate from India to participate at the historic Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in Holland in 1999 and then completed her internship with Peace Child International in the UK, after walking from the International Court of Justice in the Hague to the NATO headquarters in Brussels as part of the 2000 Peace Walk for Nuclear Disarmament. While doing her MBA she did her summer training in 2000 at the Educational Development Center in the US, where she worked on the Youth Employment Summit (YES) Campaign and later attended the 3rd YES Conference in Kenya in 2006 while on a business trip to Uganda.

She later returned to India and established the YES Meghalaya Network which she currently coordinates to create sustainable livelihoods for the rural youth of Meghalaya. She has traveled widely across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia while attending different international youth conferences and seminars. Iba joined Worldview Impact in 2008 making an impact in the Asian region on a multitude of levels.

Her stories have been making a substantial impact within the region. Being able to tell her stories to a wider audience with give other women, youth and communities the opportunities to understand how to build their own sustainable networks in often difficult minority cultures. Furthermore it will give girls who will get to know the nexus of her work through the education projects that we will be facilitating around the documentation of her stories a wider perspective on their own role within the world and the choices that are available to them on both a local and global level.

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Update posted by Jessica White On Oct 01, 2016

"Discontinuities in art traditions are common in history and especially threatening to the the crafts in small cultures when the traditional means of transmitting skills from one generation falls into disuse. It is at this point when schools have to provide the means for continuity. At the same time such schools must make it possible for young artists to be able to participate in the global aesthetic driven by technological innovations in the arts". Hans Guggenheim

Hasina Kharbhih who is from the Khasi tribe is working with 3000 women artisans in eight north eastern states through the social enterprise www.impulsepower.com. Each tribe weave their textile traditional pattern and each tribe has a story. For instance Hasina`s social enterprise supports such as artisan tribe such as The Karbi: http://impulsempower.com/partner-tribes/india/karb... The Karbi are known for their folk-tales, love for dance and music.

The Karbi women are expert weavers and they wear home-made, artistically designed clothes. They are famous for distinctive texture, designs and conspicuous colours. The Karbi women and girls are very fond of their traditional dresses and they have been using them even in the face of a strong competition of modern trends.

Hasina founded Impulse Social Enterprise, a Shillong-based firm, which has given the local women’s products the brand name “Empower”. Hasina's social enterprise is collaborating with boutiques so that these handmade crafts are promoted outside the region. Future plans are to grown the enterprise so that there are 5,000-plus rural women artisans that will be part of this initiative. This ensures women weavers and crafts people to be employed and when their products are sold the revenue goes back to the weavers and artisans.

Being run by Hasina, she understands how this is not just about the women's livelihood, it is about sustaining their history in a contemporary and innovative way. Layered with contemporary design, modern production technology women are able to actively contribute to the growing eco-system and continue their traditions, whilst not being stuck in the past, they are evolving their own future.

Being able to document these women through this project and the online exhibition that will be done with innovative interactive technology, people around the world will be able to understand how resources within source communities can be mobilised so that there can be greater sustainability within people`s locale without having submerge too much into a perhaps unwanted dominant external pressure, but it is important to note that Impulse Social Enterprise embraces the new so that, just as Guggenheim mentioned, these artisans can participate in the global aesthetic driven by technological innovations in the arts.

Furthermore, Impulse NGO Network led by Hasina is not just rescuing countless victims and fighting traffickers across the eight states of the north east, but also created awareness and support groups around the issue and its causes.

Impulse NGO Network continues to create awareness and fight the issue of human trafficking, ISE focuses on generating sustainable livelihoods, which are in turn to help prevent unsafe migration and let locals live with dignity and financial security.

Through this project both these initiatives will be documented and disseminated so that it will enable other communities and women to be inspired to create their own sustainable ways of living be it through arts and crafts or other resources whilst mitigating other unsafe circumstances that women may be exposed to within their particular locales.


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Update posted by Jessica White On Sep 28, 2016

Samantha B Marbaniang, who was born in Meghalaya has grown up in a society where women were able to live alone bringing up sometimes up to five children. Women would most probably not have the same respect had they been faced with the same circumstances elsewhere in India.

Having a snack in the late summer warmth in Munich with an Anthropologist from Germany who was studying youth culture of the Khasi tribe, we discussed the simplified face which people on the outside see of a community and how this is contrasted with the complexity of a community once you delved deeper and live within it.

Samantha, a strong, independent working woman herself wears her confidence easily. I wonder how other women who have lived in different parts of the world other than Meghalaya have felt working side by side men in sometimes male dominated professions and if there is a difference to the kind of accepted respect that comes with growing up and living within a matrilineal society. We discuss how the status of women has had ramifications for men in Meghalaya, who have become like guardians to matrilineal line, but are often found in bars in packs, sometimes over-drinking till late.

In the next update I will telling you about Mayfereen who I will be meeting out in Meghalaya. Mayfereen is the Founder of http://www.grassrootshillong.org/who is a strong advocate, ensure people to be in a position to upgrade their traditional skills, crafts and know-how from their culture so that they can participate in the global economy whilst being able to sustain themselves.

These stories from significant Khasi women are beginning to weave the tapestry that will be documented through an online, interactive exhibition where children, teenagers and adults can explore these women, their initiatives and the arts and crafts of the region. By depicting these stories through an online exhibition, this will enable us to find a way not only to understand and preserve the arts and crafts of this particular tribe, but also students, both young and old will have possibility to understand how the unique social framework and matrilineal society that has influenced the culture and arts of this region, so that there can be wider discussions about the changing frameworks and structures of society at large.

We are living in times where gender roles and societal structures are transforming, but sometimes we find ourselves going two steps forward and two steps back if we only look to our own immediate surroundings for answers. Perhaps by looking and learning more about this particular corner of the world in North India where roles are unique and somewhat upside down to what the majority is used to, perhaps then, through education we have chance to transform and make gender roles, broader, more encompassing, freer more imaginative and equal instead of restricting, oppressive, stereotypical and hate-ridden.

By giving access and learning from these societies that are co-existing on planet, we may have chance of moving beyond the constraints that bind us.


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All of the above with a hand signed postcard from the project

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All of the above with a special hand crafted gift from the women of the Khasi tribe and a special pot of honey from Iba\'s farm

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Sounds like a fascinating project.Good luck with the journey.

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