Khadi- A Movement For Women


On this International Women’s Day, I pay homage to the philosophy of Khadi and its founding father, my lifelong inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi. 

A textile person now, I understand the importance of Swadeshi, the Charkha and Khadi. Khadi is not merely hand spun, hand woven, it is a way of life! Promoting our indigenous industry, keeping alive our traditions.  It is about women empowerment as women are important participants in the weaving process. They are equal stakeholders in an industry that is 50% of India’s GDP. Yet, they are not counted in the census or even included in the cost of production.

An important consideration is that when women are making strides in the world, educating themselves, breaking the glass ceilings, a significant number are looking for freedom to break their shackles and be accorded their right status.

The Charkha albeit represents the circle of life! Karmic influence, we are what we reap. Be the change you want to see! Handwoven- requires patience and perseverance, in abeyance in today’s world. Indigo, the blue of the Universe. Limitless. It is Krishna, the author of “the song”, the way of life, the playmate the lover, the politician. Indigo is about the first joint initiative against our oppressors! The movement that led to a growing patriotic resurgence. Freedom that was obtained with resilience. The freedom we should learn to value and cherish. Like our traditions. Freedom is the key to women’s emancipation. Freedom to be and to do.

The Charkha, the wheel of life, turns and the spindles draw out the thread from bolls of cotton. Up and down, it needs concentration, focus and intuition. Almost all the women of yore had these qualities as they instinctively spun cotton in their free time. Therapy, quiet solitude, and the even-paced movements creating threads of bonding. Family ties of love were woven for their near and dear ones. Gandhi indeed understood this and wished to knit Indians to unitedly oppose the British. Satyagraha and Swaraj. Truth force and self-rule are indubitably impossible without unconditional support from home. The women imbibed strength of purpose and resolved to work with the men to acquire a better life for future generations. Family ties that bind! A symbolic representation of the freedom movement, placed in the centre of our Indian Flag.

Gandhi introduced hand spinning to make us self-reliant and empower women with a skill that can be used at home parallel to their chores. The charkha was the physical embodiment and a symbol of Gandhi’s constructive program. The khadi movement by Gandhi was aimed at boycotting foreign cloth. Mahatma Gandhi began promoting the spinning of khadi for rural self-employment and self-reliance (instead of using cloth manufactured industrially in Britain) in the 1920s in India, thus making khadi an integral part and an icon of the Swadeshi movement. This cloth was called khaddar or khadi meaning rough, pure, original, organic, close to nature.  By extrapolation, he intuitively promoted a greener environment free from the devastating effects of industrialization and overutilization of resources.

The year 2022 celebrates the day as “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. The focus is on the contribution of women and girls from around the globe, who participate in their communities promoting climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all.

Gender equality, in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction, is one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century. Underprivileged and marginalised women become consequently more susceptible as they are more dependent on the natural resources that are most threatened by climate change.

Greta Thunberg made a powerful statement and made us realise that awareness and change endured with women and girls could create a greater impact. Constraints versus opportunities for women gives rise to the need to make them equal stakeholders in decisions for climate change and sustainability.

Local, sustainable, powerful. Khadi. As we celebrate 150 years of Gandhi, his ideals live on as an inspiration.

The wheel turns – a single turn making the spindle spin a hundred times wrapping cotton. We have to pledge to spread the message and make this revolution a liberation. Let us walk in the footsteps of integrity, inclusion, compassion. The Right Way!

Vibha Mitra is a Heritage Enthusiast – actively involved with Calcutta Heritage Collective. With a passion to do things well, she expresses herself from an original point of view. Films, plays, crosswords, Scrabble, Sudoku, Netflix are all jostling for space in her world. Vibha has also authored the book “Odds and Bends”, a journal and her reflections on the world.