Rakhee Choudhury

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2002


This profile was prepared when Rakhee Choudhury was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Rakhee helps Assamese women gain economic independence, retain their cultural identity, and build confidence through weaving, the second largest activity after agriculture in the region. She organizes the women into cooperatives that connect them directly to the market, allowing them to earn a living by advancing an industry that has great cultural significance for them. Rakhee trains the women through intensive, hands-on workshops that cover topics relating not only to technicalities of weaving but also to marketing and business management. She encourages women to think of themselves in a new light–as entrepreneurs and professionals–delivering a quality product to the market and sustaining themselves and their families in the process.
Rakhee's emphasis on starting with the development of individual entrepreneurs is a huge shift from the beaten path of using weaving merely as an income-generating activity for microcredit groups. She believes that once Assamese women are motivated and equipped with the right attitudes and skills, they will be driven to work at building their own weaver groups and making their enterprises successful. Focusing first on women who are established in their communities and who have perhaps the most available time–older, unmarried women–Rakhee is converting traditional weaving skills of tribal and rural communities into viable, lucrative activities and thus giving communities an opportunity to protect and promote their unique traditions. Even as she establishes systems to stabilize the easier-to-reach weaver entrepreneurs near the city center, she identifies and involves groups that are much harder to reach. She helps them build the styles, designs, colors, and motifs particular to these groups and takes them to a stage where they are ready to take off on their own. The weaver entrepreneurs she has trained then train others, transferring the skills they have learned to weaver groups from other areas.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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