About Kutch & Women of Kutch

Kutch is comprised of ten administrative regions (talukas) covering 45,612 km2, making it the second largest district in the country.  It is located in the westernmost corner of India and accounts for about 24% of the total land area of the State of Gujarat.  Kutch is bounded by the Arabian Sea to the west, the Gulf of Kutch to the south and the Great and Small Ranns (seasonal salt marshes) of Kutch to the north and northeast.  The border with Pakistan lies along the northern edge of the Great Rann.[1]
The region’s ecosystem is fragile, with sea in the south and desert towards the north.  The desert area covers a vast expanse of land and ensures that the whole of Kutch falls within a semi-arid zone.  Consequently, water scarcity and threat of drought are major sources of concern and an ongoing struggle for the local population.  The Bhuj ridge that runs across the center of Kutch is the only source of fresh groundwater in the region.  The incidence of drought has become regular and any 5-year cycle will, on average, see 2-3 years of drought and only one year of adequate rainfall.
According to the 2001 Census Kutch is home to about 1.5 million people.  The majority of the population resides in rural areas, though there are urban centers in Bhuj (the District capital), Mandvi and Gandhidham.  People of many different castes, religions and communities live in Kutch, most of them descended from migrants to the region over the last 1000 years.  The main communities are Hindu, Muslim and Jain, with sub-groups such as Ahir, Rabari, Gadhvi, Jat, Meghwal, Mutwa, Sodha Rajput, Koli, Sindhi and Darbar differentiating the population.  See Appendix II for more information on some of these sub-groups.
The deterioration of the environment undermined the self sufficiency of the region and its people.  In the 1970s and 1980s increased economic hardships led to a large-scale migration of men and cattle out of Kutch in search of fodder, subsistence and income, causing the social fragmentation of local communities.  The steady erosion of the household’s primary productive assets – land and cattle –  led to an increasing dependence on embroidery production to supplement household income.  The varied nature of these livelihood strategies is typical of a drought economy and imposes multiple burdens on women.