With the launch of a sericulture project in various parts of India, the lifestyle of the rural women undergoes a metamorphosis. No more the stereotyped demure wife, she is searching for her own identity and cautiously trying to come out of the shadows of the patriarchs in her family.

The sericulture project was launched in Sironj and Lateri blocks in Vidisha in December, 1995 jointly by the state government and United Nations’ Childrens’ Fund. In a bid to empower the women, the state department of sericulture started by developing their leadership qualities and entrepreneurial potentials. Whereas, Highly educated youth from Vijayawada, and other cities of A.P. and Karnataka are making a beeline to the Andhra Pradesh State Sericulture Research and Development Institute (APSSRDI) at Kirikera near here.

The attraction?
To do a three-month training in various aspects of sericulture with a focus on silkworm breeding.

In the first phase of the project, government land was made available for sericulture plantations in 57 villages. Besides, some 600 women beneficiaries were involved in the various stages of silk production. The Central government also provided a grant of Rs 3 crore to cover the cost of fencing, irrigation facilities, plantation of mulberry trees and setting up of a rearing centre.

The work of the department of sericulture has not gone unnoticed. Today, the women are more aware of their rights. They also enjoy what they are doing and have begun to guard their new-found lifestyle with die-hard frenzy. “Our group was successful in fighting villagers who wanted to occupy the land allotted for mulberry plantation,’ says Shanti bai, a beneficiary.”This land was given to us by the government. How can anybody snatch it away from us?’

The women do not limit themselves to silkworm rearing. They construct wells for water needed for mulberry. They have also learnt how to operate diesel pumps. And they no longer rely on masons to construct the rearing centers: they work as masons too.

Sangeeta Soi, a trainer, maintained that bringing these women to the park wasn’t an easy task. “We visited each household to explain the job and convince them that they can do it. Many were apprehensive, many unwilling, but we managed to get 90 to work. They now believe in their dreams,” Soi summed up.”On average, each woman produces around 100gm of silk threads a day. We trained them for two months before introducing them to the production floor. The solar spinning machines are new for them. As they gain experience, the output will increase,” he said.

Madhya Pradesh is not a traditionally silk-rearing state. But with the launch of the sericulture project in Vidisha, the yield has gone up to more than Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per acre of land every year and along with better technology, the yield can be improved.

There’s something incredible about these young men and women, and it’s not just their passion for fashion. It’s how they have merged their love for modern design with their intense desire to nurture traditional methods of weaving.

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