How GI Pashmina Is Empowering Kashmiri Women?

What is GI Pashmina and how is it changing the lives of local Kashmiri women? How the revival of this local art is helping the Kashmiri artisans? Read on to explore more about GI Pashmina & empowerment of Kashmiri Women.

Shreshtha Verma
19 Jul 2023
Kashmiri Pashmina GI Tag India

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In the enchanting land of Kashmir, amidst breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage, a remarkable transformation is taking place. The revival of handspun GI Pashmina shawls is not only preserving a centuries-old tradition but also empowering Kashmiri women. 

These exquisite pieces of art, handcrafted by talented women artisans, have become a symbol of empowerment, entrepreneurship, and economic independence. In this article, we analyse the entrepreneurial spirit of Kashmiri women and explore the factors behind the rise of GI Pashmina as a catalyst for change.

The Legacy of Pashmina

Pashmina shawls have garnered global acclaim for their unparalleled beauty and luxurious feel. Originating from Kashmir, these shawls are known for their exceptional craftsmanship and the use of fine Ladakhi Cashmere wool. The history of Pashmina can be traced back to the 15th century when Persian craftsmen introduced the art of spinning, weaving, and embroidery to the local artisans. While men took up weaving and embroidery, women embraced spinning as their primary responsibility due to its compatibility with household chores.

The Dwindling Livelihoods

For decades, spinning Cashmere yarn provided a lifeline for Kashmiri women, allowing them to earn extra income and support their families. However, the advent of power looms in the 1990s disrupted the traditional way of producing Pashmina shawls. Power looms could produce shawls at a fraction of the time it took artisans to handcraft them. This shift led to the production of lower-quality shawls, as pure Cashmere threads were mixed with other materials. The widespread adoption of power looms left many artisans unemployed and pushed the art of hand-spinning Cashmere to the brink of extinction.

The Revival of Women Artisans

In a remarkable effort to preserve this heritage art form, the Indian government introduced the concept of Geographical Indication (GI) for genuine Pashmina. GI Pashmina shawls are handspun, handwoven, and crafted from the purest Ladakhi Cashmere threads. The GI stamp serves as a certification of authenticity, ensuring that the product is made according to traditional methods and originates from Kashmir.

Looms of ladakh⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

Empowering Kashmiri Women

The reintroduction of GI Pashmina shawls has breathed new life into the spinning processes, leading to the revival of women artisans' livelihoods.

Abhilasha Bahuguna, Co-founder & Director of Looms Of Ladakh tells that this Pashmina business has been a great opportunity for the regional women. 

She shared, “70% of our workforce at Looms of Ladakh comprises incredibly talented and dedicated women artisans. The art of creating Pashmina shawls involves intricate handwork and craftsmanship, making it a perfect fit for the skill sets possessed by these local women. The process demands immense patience, perseverance, and attention to detail, qualities that women naturally possess.”

“Through their involvement in Pashmina making, these women play a pivotal role in preserving our heritage and empowering themselves economically. This work provides them with a local opportunity to earn a livelihood while fulfilling their daily needs, especially as many may face limitations in venturing outside their regional areas. It is truly inspiring to witness the passion and dedication these women bring to the Pashmina making process, showcasing the true essence of female empowerment and entrepreneurship,” she added.

Women who had abandoned spinning long ago have dusted off their charkhas and resumed their craft. This resurgence has sparked a wave of empowerment, as women once again find themselves economically independent and supporting their families. The demand for authentic handmade Pashmina shawls, driven by patrons who appreciate the artistry and value of these timeless pieces, has surged. Orders are pouring in from around the world, allowing women to showcase their skills and generate income.

The Journey of a GI Pashmina Shawl

The creation of a GI Pashmina shawl is a meticulous process that requires years of practice, skill, and dedication. From the harvesting and sorting of Cashmere wool to the delicate spinning of the threads, every step is a testament to the artisan's expertise. The wool is manually dehaired, sorted, and cleaned to remove impurities, ensuring the finest quality. The delicate Cashmere fibers are then spun using a traditional wooden spinning wheel called Yinder. The resulting yarn is handwoven on traditional handlooms, creating a masterpiece that exudes elegance and craftsmanship.

What Is GI Tagging?

Geographical Indication (GI) tagging is a type of intellectual property protection that is given to products that originate from a specific geographical location and possess qualities, reputation, and characteristics that are unique to that area. The tag is used to identify the authenticity and origin of the product and prevent misuse or duplication.

The GI tag certifies that a particular product belongs to a specific region or locality and is made using traditional methods, which gives it a unique identity and quality. It also protects the product from imitation and unfair competition. GI tagging is a way to promote local industries and rural economy and helps to preserve traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.

Examples of products with GI tags in India include Darjeeling tea, Kashmiri Pashmina, Alphonso mangoes, Kanchipuram sarees, and Banarasi silk. The GI tag is granted by the Geographical Indications Registry, which is under the control of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.