“Resilient Chendamangalam” to develop Chekutty as community-owned social enterprise
Karimpadam, Chendamangalam, June 19, 2019: Secretaries and Presidents of seven handloom weavers units under the brand name of ‘Resilient Chendamangalam’ gathered in the birthplace of Chekutty to announce the next stage in the life of the little village doll that grew to be a global beacon of resilience.
Born out of the August 2018 floods in Kerala, Chekutty started as a community initiative to ensure the weaving families of Chendamangalam were not broken by the crisis. It began with the local volunteers repurposing the material from their ruined saris into the now famous Chekutty dolls. They were soon joined and supported by volunteers from around the world. In just a few short months, the initiative had not only achieved its original aims, but become a story of hope shared across the world.
Chekutties have now been made by over 50,000 volunteers and appeared in more than 140 countries. Over 2,000 delegates at the World Reconstruction Conference, and Global Platform, co-organized by the UNDRR and the World Bank, went home with them as keepsakes. Other events have used them as lanyards and souvenirs – from the Kerala Startup Mission and the Outlook Traveller Awards in India, to the Natural Hazards Centre conference in USA, the Humanitarian Leadership Conference in Australia and the Resilient Cities Summit in Spain. Through direct purchase of the dolls as well as donations to weavers units to repair looms, the initiative has managed to raise more than 120,000 USD through crowd sourcing.
Now that the weavers are once more standing strong, they have come together to launch the next stage in Chekutty’s inspiring story. On June 19, 2019 they held a meeting in the village of Chendamangalam under the leadership of Adv Anoop Kumar, Panchayat President of Chendamangalam. At this meeting, the leaders of the seven weaving units announced that once the remaining soiled clothes from flood have been used to make Chekutties, they plan to launch as a 100% community owned social enterprise called Resilient Chendamangalam.
Resilient Chendamangalam will launch with seven objectives:
- Uplift Chendamangalam weavers.
- Develop new brands and products associated with Chendamangalam to create a new sustainable market economy in Ernakulam district
- Promote cross selling between existing weaving units and other enterprises using the traditional production practices of Chendamangalam brand.
- Devise social impact programs benefiting people and places specifically in Chendamangalam and Ernakulam in general.
- Design, produce and market Chendamangalam associated products and experiences.
- Design, produce and promote responsible tourism activities to generate more wealth within the community.
- Promote and implement a community resilience program with a focus on the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction.
“We were supported unconditionally by people from all sectors, not just in Chendamangalam, or Kerala but from around the world,” said Ajith Kumar, Secretary of Karimpadam Weavers Society in Chendamangalam. “As we are all back on track thanks to the support we received, we believe it is our responsibility to give back to the local community and create a model that can be replicated across the world, especially for those areas affected by natural disasters which are happening more widely and more frequently.”
September 9, 2019 will be the first anniversary of the Chekutty Doll. To acknowledge that the climate crisis is a global crisis, and that solutions come through collaboration and the sharing of ideas, the weavers plan to celebrate that day as World Resilience Day. On that day, their new cooperative plans to launch the first products in their new range, now made from fresh, undamaged material. As well as dolls, the range will include keychains, lanyards, shirts, sarees, pillows and baby clothes, all sold under the new Chekutty brand.
Furthermore, when the 2019 tourist season starts, the co-operative plans to open cafes and a series of flood museums, both sharing stories of how Malayalees overcame the 2018 floods. There will also be a Chekutty trail guided by local storytellers, bringing travellers through flood-affected locations, meeting with people and learning how their communities have recovered. They will visit the handloom units and yarn bank by the Periyar River where one of the museums will be set up.
“Our long term vision is to build a Resilient Chendamangalam,” explained Adv. Anoop, “so we will be working with local people, developing sustainable livelihoods through the new Chekutty brand and the many related opportunities it offers in responsible tourism. We will also be training the local people in disaster management skills such as first aid, swimming, and being first responders while doing a vulnerability mapping of the region. For example, our panchayat will establish strategic locations for kayaks and boats which can be used both by our community volunteers for conservation work as well as for tourism . This will be financed by the money from Chekutty and responsible tourism.
Chekutty founders Lakshmi Menon and Gopinath Parayil will continue to work with the co-operative as patrons and help in design and marketing.