When we speak of women empowerment in Northeast, Manipur shows the way.
In keeping with this spirit, three women entrepreneurs from Manipur displayed varied items at the innovators and entrepreneurs’ meet underway at CSIR-North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) in Jorhat.
From making shoes with knitted tops to handbags made from waste material and eye-catching hair pins made from muga and mulberry cocoons, the Manipuri women proved their mettle and showed the rest of the world what innovation meant and how entrepreneurship could be developed.
Muktamani Devi from Kakching district of Manipur has made shoes which have the material for soles accessed from Kolkata and wool for the knitted top in a variety of colours and designs brought from Ludhiana.
She now boasts of an industry where 20 girls are engaged in making shoes for both men and women in different designs.
For Muktamani, the spur to make shoes came when she could not buy a pair for her daughter about 26 years back.
Another grassroots innovator who showed the gathering what could be done from waste was Jina Kihumyam. Starting off with making handmade soaps, her brand Mangal signifying women empowerment and enlightenment, boasts of fragrances from herbs and flowers, freshly plucked.
She has patented the soap and the group of women under her who make the handmade soaps supply to shops and classic hotels in Imphal.
Recently, she has embarked on another venture – making handbags from waste material.
Despite having her hands full, Jina squeezes out time to train sex workers, the HIV positive, widows and disabled in these crafts so that they too can earn a livelihood.
Shanti Devi and her group of women under the banner of Kangleisil displayed a mindboggling collection of exotic head ornaments – nachom, narumlei, samjet lei akin to fresh flowers in the form of head pins, hair garlands, decorative combs embossed with flowers to be pinned into buns, tucked behind the ears, or extending as earrings.
These hair adornments shaped like roses, jasmine and other flowers are all made of mulberry and muga cocoons as well as other materials and are worn during festivals.