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SHE is made up of “Team Leaders” that look over a large group of embroiderers

in specific villages throughout West Bengal.

Here are the stories of a few of these team leaders.

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2.22

Yeah, I am Chandana Balan. 39 years old. 100 women work here in Krishnapur Village.

This is for women who cannot come out from their home. They can work while staying at home. I like it very much. They get paid for this and now they are self-dependent.

They are looking after their kids. In any financial crisis, they are helping their family and I am very much satisfied with this. I am very happy.

I’ve worked 25 years there and seen a huge progress in Kantha art. People only think about the business of Kantha, but according to me it’s not only business, we must bring it in every home of West Bengal. We have to find out how we could earn more from it.

We have to do more work; we have to make good products, but we have to maintain the price level, so that it is within the grasp of everyone. Everyone can buy it.

If we make smaller products like we all hang with a figure or a village scene or the figures of deities, people can frame it at home. Those who have financial problems can also buy a smaller thing at a cheaper price.

But now women do not want to work at labor costs, because now everything is costly. The labor charges are not sufficient for them. Even the cost price of our materials and threads has also risen. This is causing a problem in our work.

We are not paying them perfectly so they are going for different jobs.

They are now involved in a 100 days program announced by our state government.

1.14

I am Sadhana Mondal. My age is 57. My home is at Suri south of the Birbhum district. 150 people work there. My mom and grandmother used to do this stitch. I learnt the basic work from them. Next, we came to Santiniketan and had training of Kantha. Then we professionally started Kantha.

It’s something our mom and grandmother used to do, so there are emotions linked to it. We like to do it. We love it and that is why we are doing it. The main thing is love, so we are able to proceed with this work so far. Now we are thinking about the progress and enrichment of the work.

3.59

My mother is very good and efficient in sewing; even most of my family members are good in sewing. My elder sister used to sew when I was in the 6th grade. I got trained from her. Then I brought orders from a lady named Sulekha Das. After that, I worked in different places. Here I have been working for 2 years.

The young generation now likes this Kantha art. They are using for kurtis and shirts. This art affects everyone’s mind. As Chandana says if we can do it for cheap cost price, that’s good. If we use costly fabric then products cost too much.

We do it because we like it, but some families do it as an earning source. It is their livelihood. They are bearing the expense of their children’s education. I know them well.

At first, my father was not economically sound. I learnt this art from childhood to make it as a source of income, but now it is a part of my life.

Now the girls who are working here are self-dependent.

I want to let all the women know about this opportunity. We can do this work, household work, and educational work simultaneously. In this way only women could progress.

1.20

My name is Noon Alam. Age 39. I have 250 laborers. My village is Jaykrishnapur in the Burdwan District.

I think if we make people aware about Kantha, then this art will remain for a longtime in the future. We have to make them understand that it is an art.

I love Kantha because my ancestors used to do it. It spreads our Bengali culture throughout the world.

It is a good cottage industry. We are earning a lot from it.

5.07

My name is Sibha Kundu. Age 55. I have been working under [Shamlu Dudeja] for 25 years. My village is Garia, South 24 Parganas.

We express our feelings through Kantha. To develop this art, we should market it. If you people help us then we can. There were many obstacles in my life to do this.

Our family had doubts about what we were doing… from where I was getting the money… they were confused about these. When I am contributing for my family, I used my money to make my son an engineer…

Now my family is happy. Now each member of my family respects me.

In the morning, I do all household work. My son goes to the office. I cook food for him. My husband and his mother live at the home and I take care of her. Now I have appointed a cook at home, but she skips her duties often, then I do everything.

Usually, I work for 3 hours in the morning and then after my lunch work for another 3 hours. Then in the evening, I work until 11 at night.

Initially, my husband complained to my mother about my involvement with Kantha.

You know, I find out those women who are unable to work in the field or as a maid. I go to their place and give them work orders and when they are done, I bring back their products. They do not come from their home. There are lots of these types of families. Generally, they are Muslim.

Suppose we draw a Krishna in a Kantha. His complexion, the color of his flute… we decide it. It is a great joy. We express some stories in Kantha, some untold stories, some which people forget. It is just like a movie or theater. It is joy.

Many of the rural women do not know about our epics ‘The Ramayana,’ or ‘The Mahabharata.’ When they are doing Kantha, they are becoming aware of the stories from these epics.