Khoma: The gewog of affluent where men take pride in women earning more

Khoma gewog under Lhuentse Dzongkhag has been known prominently for its much sought after—vibrant and meticulous Kishuthara weaving by the local women. Given the painstaking effort, time and money invested to bring into creation the artistic textiles; factors such as these make Kushuthara one of the most expensive and sought after textiles in the country. The word Kishu means noble or elite and Thara refers to the patterns- therefore a Kishuthara is a Thara fit for the Kishu or the elite. But

Khoma, for that matter, is also one of the affluent gewogs in the Dzongkhags, attributed most of the earning to the women who start weaving as early as 8 years old, while men work in the fields. Khoma gup also acknowledged that the livelihood of the people in the Gewog has improved by manifolds as compared to the other gewogs in the Dzongkhag, be it in terms of road, water or financially.

People believe that women have the innate ability to weave Kushuthara which makes it easier for them to learn the intricate patterns. “Moreover, girls at a very young age are exposed to the weaving culture and they grow up watching their mother weave since an infant, so it is easier for them to learn the basic patterns as early as eight years old and graduate on to more meticulous part of the art.” He also added that although men do not engage in the art of weaving Kishuthara, there are, however, an elderly man and an eleven-year-old boy who are into the art of weaving Kishuthara.

The men, however, unabashedly take pride in the fact that women earn more in their village than they would ever from working in the fields. Khoma Gup said that one of the foremost sources of income in the Gewog is the Kishuthara business and then followed farming activities. Almost 80 percent of the household expenditures are met by selling Kishuthara, according to the villagers in the gewog. The price of a silk kishuthara ranges from Nu 30,000 to more than Nu 100,000 depending on the material, intricacy of the pattern and the length of the textile piece.

“There are five Chiwogs in the gewog, and there is not a single Chiwog that does not engage in Kushuthara weaving by women. Men do most of the farming activities in the Gewog. Although all the nine cereal can be reaped in the gewog, people mostly restrict agricultural cultivation to maize, chilli, finger millet, and vegetables—which is also attributed to the ever-pressing labour shortage across the country,” said Sithar Tshering.

The gup also said that unlike past, the economic development of the country as a whole can be evidenced from the fact that the demand for Kishuthara keeps on increasing every year despite the exorbitant price, which he said is proportionately due to the improved living standards of the people. With the hand-woven textiles gaining high regard with the local women and international textile connoisseurs, the art of weaving is also considered one of the components of the thirteen arts and crafts of Bhutan—directly contributing to the preservation of our rich heritage of weaving or Thagzo.

Kushuthara has also been identified as the potential product of the Gewog under the flagship program by the government in the 12th FYP to enhance the livelihoods of the rural community. For all the reasons that make Kushuthara unique to the gewog, Khoma also sees many tourists flogging the textile market to witness a group of skilled weavers in action using the backstrap loom in the makeshift textile sheds, while some women choose to stay at home and weave.

The yearly increase in the number of tourists visiting the Gewog has also helped boost sales on the textiles and brought about financial security in the gewog. The community-based village homestays that were established in collaboration with Tourism Council of Bhutan and Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary also adds to the numbers of tourist visiting the gewog. The Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary with financial support from Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation also carried out integrated wildlife management for sustainable biodiversity conservation that has greatly helped in uplifting the livelihood of the community.

The gup also said that the governments that have come into power so far has been working towards the greater good of the gewog and country as a whole that has helped achieve a great deal of economic development in the gewog.

Khoma unlike other gewogs in the dzongkhag also has modern amenities like TV, fridge, washing Machine amongst others in sight. Sithar Thering also said that Khoma’s strategic location makes it easier to market their farm produce such as vegetables to Lhuntse town which is just about 11kms away.

The story was made possible with the content grant from DoIM.

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