World Youth Skill Day: “Sustain Ancestral Skill or Earn Livelihood?” Question Next Gen Banaras Weavers

On World Youth Skill Day, young weavers from Banaras talk about their dilemma between sustaining their ancestral skill of weaving or earning a better livelihood with a different skill. 

“Our forefathers used to do it and now we continue to do it,” said Zulfikar Ahmed, a weaver from Banaras. Behind India’s infamous Banarasi saris lies the skills of Banarasi weavers who have been practising this skill for several decades now. India is still one of the only countries that creates textiles from the genius of master weavers but the process of creating textiles through hand-weaving and loom is lost with fashion markets largely dominated by mill-made fabrics. 

In India, weaving centers are known to have made saris for the royal families since the 12th and 13th centuries. The textile industry is the biggest employment generator in India after agriculture. However, in recent years, the livelihoods of weavers are endangered. “There is nothing left in this profession, those who are doing it are struggling to feed their families,” said Zulfikar.

According to the United Nations, India is home to 1.2 billion young people aged 15-24, which is 16% of the global population. The weavers of this new generation are drifting away from the skill of weaving. “Our kids will not do this, they will do something else. They see me struggling to earn enough with this and so they are asking me to equip them with other skills,” said Roopchand, a weaver from Varanasi on World Youth Skill Day.

On the other hand, government initiatives such as Skill India  and National Skill Development Mission by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) are trying to empower India’s youth with skill sets to make them employable. 

Hopefully, government these initiatives will guide the new generation of weaver to resolve the dilemma between sustaining the dying ancestral skill and earning their livelihood.  

Video by Community Correspondent Shabnam Begum

Article by Kavyasri Srinath, member of VV Editorial Team 

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