Dubai: Dozens of participants of the upcoming Dubai Women’s Run (DWR) will knit together to support weavers from Kerala who lost their livelihoods in the recent floods in the south Indian state.
Around 50 women have confirmed to drape in traditional handloom saris from Chendamangalam in Kerala where an entire weaving community was adversely affected by the floods that damaged their looms and products which were left rotting in mud and flood water.
Carrying the GI tag (geographical indication of its place of origin), Chendamangalam handloom saris produced by the traditional weavers there are considered one of the best in the country.
When floods struck ahead of Onam festival in August for which they had stockpiled raw materials, almost 400 weaver families lost their entire investment for the season.
There have been some community efforts in India to help them rebuild their lives and Chekkutty and Bhoomika — two dolls made of handloom sari materials damaged in floods — were born to champion the cause.
Paramparik-The Saree Heritage, a group of traditional sari lovers from the UAE with more than 1,700 members on its Facebook page, has now taken up that mission in Dubai and is trying to popularise the dolls here in order to grab international attention.
Beema Benazir Anzar and Bindu Jayaprasad Nair, founders of the group, said the members would run in handloom saris imported from Chendamangalam at the upcoming run.
“We had already supported the flood victims by sending around 30 tonnes of relief materials,” said Nair, an entrepreneur.
“When the weavers’ crisis came out in the media, we, as sari lovers, wanted to help them as well.”
The women’s group then purchased handloom materials worth Rs200,000 (Dh10,152) woven by the Chendamangalam weavers.
“People are slowly forgetting the flood victims. Our effort is a reminder to them that we still need to do a lot to help the weavers rebuild their lives,” said Anzar, a senior legal consultant.
“We want to create awareness about it on an international platform and we want to preserve this dyeing art and the heritage and tradition associated with these saris,” she said.
The group aims to provide at least one loom for the weavers in at least one cluster of the village.
Harmeek Singh, race chairman, DWR and founder and chairman, Plan b Group, said there will be discount from the Dh150 registration for participants wishing to run in sari.
“We will make an audiovisual presentation on the floods and also set up a kiosk to give away dolls and sari materials if they are available,” he said.
Singh said he had actively taken part in the flood relief efforts by building 15 container homes and installing water purifying pumps in several locations in the Alappuzha district.
He said he would also try to sell the Chendamangalam dolls online to continue the campaign to support the weavers even after the running event.
Those who wish to receive the Chendamangalam sari to be worn at the run can write to firstname.lastname@example.org and registration for DWR can be made at www.dubaiwomensrun.com
Almost 100 pieces of Chekkutty will be given away for free.
The winners of the run will also be given the dolls at the victory stand along with their cash prizes.
The DWR will take off from Festival Bay, Dubai Festival City Mall at 6.30am on November 16.