Using an iron rod, G Vijaylakshmi rolls cotton fiber on a wooden plank, carefully separating the raw fiber from cotton seeds — a process known as ginning. Six women sit around Vijaylakshmi, each at a different stage of processing the raw cotton to covert it into Ponduru Khadi yarn.
With the theme of ‘Skilling India’, the 32nd India International Trade Fair (IITF) has drawn women from all walks of life, who have travelled from every part of the country to participate.
Vijaylakshmi and her team travelled from Ponduru village of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh and have been displaying their skills at the Khadi and Village Industries Commission pavilion.
“Micro and small-scale industries have seen at least 55 per cent participation from women. One can see more women at most of the stalls at the fair,” Rita Menon, chairperson-cum-managing director of ITPO, said.
A variety of stalls, both national and international, selling goods like textiles, jewellery, furniture and processed food are being managed by women entrepreneurs and exhibitors.
Vijaylakshmi has been coming to the fair for the past three years. Her team demonstrates all the eight steps part of traditional spinning of Ponduru Khadi yarn, the cotton for which is grown in Ponduru village.
These steps involve cleaning cotton using Valuga fish jaw, ginning, spinning and hank preparation. Holding a seven-inch long roll of cotton, Vijaylakshmi said: “It takes at least 70 such rolls to make one simple sari. It takes about 20 days to make a sari, which costs around Rs 8,000.”
Talking about Ponduru cotton, Director of KVS S P Singh said: “This is a unique form of khadi and (the spinning process) is carried out primarily by women. These women have been doing this work for the past 40 years. Skills are passed down to the next generation. It creates job opportunities for women.”
Unlike Vijaylakshmi, Vijaya Arora has a degree in design and has a workshop in Vasant Kunj, South Delhi. The owner of a store that sells garments, Arora said: “I set up my own unit in 2011. This is the second time that I am participating in the trade fair. While I select the fabric and design kurtas, my unit stitches the garments.”
A product designer from Chandigarh, Poonam Thakur said she has tried experimenting with cotton. “Several processes were carried out to ensure that the cloth does not shrink, and the colours don’t bleed,” an attendant at Thakur’s stall said.