This is how the Chizami Weaves has created a sustainable livelihood opportunities for the marginalized women in Nagaland
Chizami is a small village in Nagaland’s Phek district which is hardly known across the country. But over the years, Chizami has carved a niche for itself with a unique model of socioeconomic and environmental development. Now the village gets young visitors from Kohima and neighboring villages for internships.
The seeds of socioeconomic and environmental reform in Chizami were planted back in the mid-1990s, when Monisha Behal, a women’s rights activist and founder of the North East Network (NEN), landed in Nagaland with the aim of improving women health standards in the state. After noticing the strength of women in Naga society, she decided to do something that enhances the society as whole.
Monisha met Seno Tsuhah during a workshop in Pfutsero town. Seno was a representative of the Chizami Women’s Society (CWS). Their meeting led to the Nagaland chapter of the NEN that changed the fate of Chizami forever.
Initially they focused on improving health, sanitation and nutrition; they then started skill enhancement programs such as bamboo craft, food processing, organic farming, rooftop water harvesting and low-cost sanitation, besides organizing talks on topics like governance, women empowerment and human rights issues.
Taking the spirit of women empowerment even further, Behal flagged off a decentralized livelihood project called Chizami Weaves. Over the years, the Chizami Weaves has created a sustainable livelihood opportunities for the marginalized women in the district as well as preserving the unique textile tradition of Nagaland.
The journey that began with 8 women in 2008 is now a thriving movement covering 600 women weavers. It has a strong network with 10 other villages in Phek district, whose hand works such as stoles, cushion covers, belts, bags, mufflers, coasters, table mats and runners are now shipped to emporiums in New Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Mumbai.
The income generated has led to the recognition and respect for women within their homes and helped bring in new perceptions of gender justice to women. Today, Chizami is not only supporting a sustainable livelihood for the women but also working at the forefront for women’s rights in the state. We salute the precedence spirit and dedication of Monisha Behal that helped change an entire village.