Nine visually impaired Indian women have sewn themselves into the Guinness Book of Records by making the world’s biggest jute bag: 20 metres long, 11.5 metres wide and weighing 300kg.
India’s prime minister has encouraged people to cut down on the use of plastics and S. Sasikala, the chair of the Indian foundation that is co-organiser of the big bag project, says that it is a way of creating awareness of the potential of eco-friendly alternatives to plastic.
Jute is a vegetable fibre that for centuries has been spun into strong threads and, until the rise of synthetics about 50 years ago, was known as “the golden fibre” because of its colour and high value.
But for the women in the southernmost state of Tamil Nadu, the jute project has a more personal significance: because of their visual handicap and poverty they are part of a disadvantaged group that is otherwise at risk of ending up living on the streets or begging and suffering all kinds of prejudice. The project helps them acquire skills and raise their standing in the community.
“Wherever we go, people speak to us as if we don’t know anything,” says Maarathal Ranganathan, one of the bag makers. “So it feels extra good to be able to do something like this.”
The bag is currently on display at the textile school that co-sponsored the project and helped raise the skills of the nine record-breakers.
/Sharada Balasubramanian, Indien
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