This is a story about an iron-willed lady entrepreneur who dedicated her whole life for the cause of a goodwill society and upliftment of women’s condition in Manipur. This is the story of Kumari Moirangthem Satyabhama Devi, the main founding member of the Manipur Apex Handloom Weavers and Handicraft Artisans Co-Operative Society Limited, Paona Bazar, Imphal, who served as its president for over 15 years since its inception and the founder of “Charei Khudol”, the promising and innovative brand specializing in production and marketing of refined handloom & handicraft products likable to all sections of people for daily home and office use.
The Need of Problem Solving
Since time immemorial the skill of weaving and cloth making has been an innate quality to almost every section of women folks throughout existence. The lines from the classic Manipuri song *“Panthou Maangol Khenjonglaang, Charei Yongkham Maangda Tha” also reflect to us that we, too, have a long history of this and a proud tradition to carry forward. But unfortunately, the ceaseless import of cheap machine made clothes flooding into our markets and its blinding impact on our masses who buy them in bulk have threatened the fate of this lineage and its progressive evolution. There is also a serious concern about the massive Capital Outflow from the state that always brings about perpetual economic and political instability in this industrially budding state. A way to solve this problem becomes an immense necessity.
Why Her Works
As in most societies, in Manipur also women are the vital pillars who preserve and maintain. They have an undeniable role to play in every venture it endures. Disappearance of handloom & handicrafts signifies extinction of a major portion of the skills of our maternal blood line which tremendously would impact into a downbeat paradigm shift to our cultural and traditional values. Since our unique traditional and moral values are much the practical output of our women folks who weave for their family and artisans who toil for their livelihood and approbation, this sector becomes one of the most important items to be concerned. To create jobs through this sector would also help money to circulate more plausibly within the state and eventually help in booming up the Capital Inflow.
This very need was apparent to young Satyabhama 45 years ago who walked the stalls of Ima Keithel to catch the weavers whom she invested and practically brought forward her ideas into actions up till today thereby giving jobs to thousands spread across the state. Her patriotic sense of determination and perseverance to execute a plan into viable action is very much worthy of recognition and admiration.
What draws deeper attention is the modest life that she led and the hardship she faced when she walked into this venture. Being the eldest of 6 siblings born to (L) Moirangthem Nungshibi and (L) M Ongbi Wangol Devi of Ukhrul Road Khurai Sajor Leikai, Imphal the entire responsibility of the family was left to her when her parents died. She was barely in her early 20s when she had to drop her studies from TG Higher Secondary School and toil day and night with her youngest toddler brother on her back to earn the family’s daily ends meet. There were even consecutive days that the family had to spend without a meal. The profound skill of weaving that she learnt from her maternal tradition came to her as a rescue. She remembered her mother’s words about what this skill meant to a well cultured woman which she absorbed intently earlier and steadfastly decided to bring it forward despite the harsh circumstances of poverty that hampered her. She succeeded in forming a small group with the weavers of her locality and slowly conveyed its influence into the Ima market where she met other weavers and formed a Society. It was during 1973-74 when the price of rice was Rs. 1.25/- that she could sell her product *Moirang phee in *Kabirei machu at Rs. 35/- with good profit. Her business boomed when the Government of Manipur recognized her activities and provided aid. She utilized the grant to conduct numerous awareness and training programs thereby increasing her entrepreneurship skills and field of influence. Now this Society has slowly ripened into “the Manipur Apex Handloom Weavers and Handicraft Artisans Co-Operative Society Limited, Paona Bazar, Imphal” to which she served as a formally elected president for 15 years until 2016 since its inception. She wasn’t elected in the last election due to a debauchery in the electing system. This resulted in the abrupt termination of her hope to reach her goal through the society.
Her New Venture
The withdrawal chilled her to the bones, yet she managed to come up again with more vibrancy and innovation in a very short period of time. A promising brand called “Charei Khudol”, a C.S. Ltd. registered unit, specializing in a line of refined handloom & handicraft products likable to all sections of people for daily home and office use; file-covers, handkerchiefs, towels, curtains, table sheets, bed-sheets, door mats, show piece etc., all in traditional touch, apart from other lines of products which are already in the pipeline in matching price range with the products imported in the state is her recent inception. This capable company, in the long run, aims to make aware of the vivacious traditional values to our masses and also provide full time reliable employment to all sections of women weavers and artisans. The company puts up many workable ideas to investors and government to generate profit and economically viable solution to the present unemployment problem in the state and its dreaded circumstances.
67 years old Satyabhama, despite of all these obvious philanthropy and inspiration imparted to us, still feels that her dream is not complete. She is still unwavering in her endeavors to reach her goals. Before she dies she would like to see a self reliant Manipur where its women would have a right place to work, be empowered and actively contribute to her family’s income, so that a locality is developed, a society is developed, so that the state and the nation as a whole is developed.
She remained unmarried, yet it was for a divine cause!
Address: Panthoibi Arcade, Shop no. 11, 1st floor, opp. Eastern Ground, Wankhei, Imphal East, Manipur.
*”Panthou Mangol Khenjonglang, Charei Yongkham Mangda Tha” –An acclaimed Manipuri song by (L) G. Tombisana Sharma written by (L) B. Jayentakumar Sharma,
*Moirang Phee– a popular woman’s traditional shwal,
*Kabirei Machu– a darker shade of popular pink colour.