Published: 09th July 2018
Meet Akhila Nookala, the Hyderabadi girl who is working with Assamese weavers to make their products market-ready
Nookala is from Hyderabad and as an SBI Youth For India fellow, is working with weavers
Twenty-one-year-old Akhila Nookala has no idea what she wants to do in the future. She hasn't picked her career yet, so she has adopted the classic trial-and-error method. She has visited the Gond tribes in Maharashtra and Telangana to work with them, has taught in government schools and is currently working in the town of Barama in the Baksa district of Assam — all in a quest to figure out what she wants while doing what she loves the most. "All I know is that I want to work closely with communities," states the Hyderabadi girl, with confidence.
For a smile: Nookala sharing a laugh with weavers
As an SBI Youth For India fellow, she has been working to create market linkages for Assamese handloom weavers, a project that was originally started by another fellow, which she continued in 2017. Now, ten months down the line (and three months to go), she is quite pumped with the results. So what Nookala is responsible for is bagging orders for these traditional weavers for whom weaving is not just an occupation, but a way of life. Their income comes from weaving though they also have some land and cattle for agriculture too. But the unique problem they are facing is that, "they tend to spend more time with family than weave. As a result of this, they often do not meet deadlines and it's hard to keep a client that way," explains Nookala.
Nookala is a BSc graduate from Bhavan's Vivekananda College, Sainikpuri, Hyderabad. As the weavers are not used to weaving sarees in particular, they were having some quality issues initially, shares Nookala
But thanks to the right expectation setting, they have established a partnership with HandsOfIndia, Vrindavan and BEAD Social Enterprise, Bengaluru. Nookala had to travel to Guwahati several times to make the latter happen and understand the market reality. As if that's not hard enough, there's also the language barrier. "Thank God for a few people who understand Hindi," she exclaims, reminding herself to learn the local language someday.
All smiles: Nookala with the weavers
The weavers weave mekhla chadar and dupattas as of now and weaving sarees is on the cards. But what about Nookala and her future? She's sure that she's exactly where she needs to be.
For more on her work, follow her on instagram.com/im_awake_this_moment/