Mahatma Gandhi used handloom weaving as a weapon in his struggle against the British. Now many organisations in the country are using weaving as a tool of therapy to treat and rehabilitate differently challenged persons. On October 2, three city-based NGOs — Maithree, We Can and Vasantham — came together to launch Weawin, an initiative for young adults with special needs to express their creativity through weaving.
Gita Srikanth, director of We Can, says, “All three NGOs have a common objective of providing therapeutic and vocational opportunities through meaningful engagements. Our NGO works with children with autism. As these children grow older, one of the biggest concerns is how they are going to engage themselves productively. Though parents are constantly looking for avenues to find some vocational opportunities, they end up with clichéd activities like making paper/leaf cups, plates, etc. We realised weaving could be a better option and decided to collaborate with other NGOs. Our project, Weawin, is more like a fashion therapy to individuals with special needs. Also, this initiative empowers them economically,”
Apart from the pharmacological treatment, it’s essential to provide behavioural and occupational therapies for individuals with special needs (specifically intellectual and developmental disabilities). Occupational therapy would change an individual’s perspective towards life. The team behind Weawin is not looking at weaving as a demanding task but a fun activity to showcase their skills. “We are looking at adults above 18 years of age. We’ll provide yarn and they can weave it freestyle without following any pattern. As a concept, weaving has no rules. By engaging in weaving activities, the individuals could overcome certain behavioural and cognitive problems. The fabric made by them will be given to the designer (Kalyani Pramod) who will then create various products from it,” adds Gita.
Designer Kalyani Pramod is thrilled to be part of this noble initiative. “Weaving helps individuals with special needs to be creative, focused and responsible. I’ll be training special educators the basic techniques of weaving like arranging the cotton rolls on the warp, working on warps with shuttles, etc. They will teach the method to the students. Once they master it, we will suggest creative ways of producing fabric. Though the act is repetitive, weaving is a therapeutic activity. It’ll improve the psycho-motor coordination and, thereby, bring qualitative changes in a person,”
The designer is planning to give four or five colours to the adults to create vibrant patterns. “It’s similar to how we provide colour pencils and paper to kids and ask them to draw images. Each piece of fabric I receive from the children would be unique and of a shorter width. I’ll then create products from it with the help of other weavers. Once we sell the product, we will pay the individuals for every metre woven,” she shares.