Guwahati: Laishram Geeta Leima lost hope of a normal life in May when her house in Sugnu Awang Leika in conflict-hit Manipur’s Kakching district was attacked by miscreants.
The 36-year-old mother of a three-year-old had to take shelter in a relief camp near Meitei-dominated Thoubal district due to the violence allegedly carried out by armed Kuki miscreants.
But three months later amid the chaos, Geeta found a sparkle of hope inAmigurumi, a Japanese crochet doll, when “1 Million Heroes,” a global entertainment brand, came forward to offer something to Manipur’s displaced persons to soothe their distressed minds and support their livelihoods.
Like Geeta, a group of women in at least five relief camps in Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley were provided training and raw materials in August. In about two months, many of them started making the dolls on their own.
“The training provided us something to divert our minds from the distress and do something to earn,” said Geeta.
The sporadic incidents of violence between the majority Meitei and the minority Kuki tribe that have continued since May led to killing of more than 180 people and displaced over 60,000 others. Most displaced persons are still living in relief camps as the sporadic incidents of violence have still kept Manipur troubled.
The women have been provided training on making dolls like Buddy – the pet Dog, Mitten- the Cat, Raja – the Tiger, Oliver – the Bear and Bole, the Buddy.
The efforts to sooth the distressed minds started bearing some fruits when an online presale kickstarter campaign between October 7 and November 5 fetched orders worth $11,000. The pre-sale orders came from many parts of the world with North America topping the list, followed by Australia, Europe, and Asia, said an official statement issued by the Manipur government. The dolls are likely to be delivered to the customers by December.
Monish Karam, the founder of ‘1 Million Heroes’ said, “The success of the Stitching Hope campaign is not just about numbers; it’s about the human connection. It’s about children around the world learning from the stories of resilience, and it’s about our artisans finding healing and purpose through their craft.”
“As the campaign transitions to the production phase, resilient women artisans are not merely crafting dolls; they are shaping a narrative of hope and reclaiming control over their lives,” Karam said.
Karam was in Singapore when violence started in Manipur and he decided to do something for the displaced persons.
“We wanted to do something very sustainable. Women in Manipur are very good in handicraft and handlooms. And that is something we wanted to take leverage of. We realised that we can create something creative. Then the idea of dolls came and eventually narrowed down to crochet dolls. And these dolls are not mere dolls. We believe they are the symbol of hope and vessels of storytelling,” Karam said.
Doll artist and master trainer, Utpala Longjam said that the Stitching Hope campaign helped in improving their mental health by diverting their minds from the distressing memories of burning houses and losing their dear ones to something creative and an option of earning.
Sources in Manipur said although some livelihoodsupport activities have been initiated by NGOs and the government agencies for the displaced Meiteis in the Imphal Valley, nothing much has been done for the displaced Kukis similarly living in relief camps in Kuki-dominated hills.
(Published 12 November 2023, 14:47 IST)