Two Goan women leaders: Confluence of style, substance in politics, fabrics

Two Goan women leaders: Confluence of style, substance in politics, fabrics

Goan-origin Australian MP Zaneta Mascarenhas and her children along with acclaimed fashion designer and Executive Director of Goa Sudharop Verma D’Mello at the Goa Sudharop’s Kunbi handloom project in Orlim-Salcete.


When Zaneta Mascarenhas, a Goan-origin Australian MP from Swan, Western Australia, went to Orlim-Salcete to visit Goa Sudharop’s Kunbi handloom project while on her recent holiday in Goa, she finally got to see the source of her handwoven Kunbi saree that she had draped at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in 2023.

Zaneta’s interaction with acclaimed fashion designer and Executive Director of Goa Sudharop Verma D’Mello showcased the style and substance of two Goan women who have earned acclaim in politics and fabrics. Both Goan women leaders shared their experiences of this interaction and their admiration for each other.

‘Verma has potential to transform lives with handloom project’

Goan-origin Australian MP from Swan, Western Australia Zaneta Mascarenhas and her family were keen to visit the Goa Sudharop’s handloom project spearheaded by Verma D’Mello, as they had been interested in learning about original and traditional methods of saree production.

“We took the opportunity while in Goa to visit Goa Sudharop’s handloom project. Indigenous culture is something that I’m interested in, and it’s fascinating to learn about Goa’s heritage. Also, Verma D’Mello had gifted me the Kunbi saree I wore to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas last year,” said Zaneta.

The Australian MP said she was very impressed with the handloom project, and the efforts of Goa Sudharop, its Trustees and team members. 

“The project is inspiring, and my family were very impressed! It was fantastic to see how a Kunbi saree is woven by some very skilled local women employed at the plant. It’s very hypnotic and requires patience, taking at least two days to thread the loom and another two to weave. I tried - but I do not have the skill!”

“My son loved it, and he enjoyed spooling thread. As an engineer, I loved the ingenuity of the mechanics of the process to create something so beautiful,” said Zaneta.

Zaneta said Verma has the potential to transform lives and livelihoods through the handloom project.

“The project employs 44 women and providing these opportunities for local underprivileged women is transformative. Having the skills to generate an income empowers women. The practice of traditional culture is also important for retaining our cultural heritage and knowing who we are as Goan people,” said Zaneta.

“Verma D’Mello had a vision of reviving this tradition and she has realised it. The Goa Sudarop, the Trustees, Fatima and other team members are simply an inspiration. I hope the Goa Sudarop continues the inspiring work reviving traditional practices and creating traditional Goan clothes for people to appreciate for generations to come.”

‘Zaneta has potential to inspire Goan women to pursue their dreams’

Images of Zaneta Mascarenhas draped in a traditional Kunbi saree during the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Indore on January 8, 2022 were shared across the world.

For internationally acclaimed fashion designer and Executive Director of Goa Sudharop, Verma D’Mello, who had gifted the saree to Zaneta, it was a proud moment to see Goa’s Kunbi fabric and saree on display at an international meet.

“Initially, I was a bit surprised when I saw the images all over the media. This particular Kunbi saree was gifted to the MP after following the necessary protocol as laid down by the Australia government,” said Verma.

“I had seen Zaneta addressing the Australia parliament for the first time, she was wearing a red-coloured saree and briefly made a mention about Goa.”

As an executive director for Goa Sudharop, my intentions were not to boost our creations  but a small effort to boost Goa’s Kunbi fabric and saree. That she wore the saree during her first official visit to India was something incredible towards the cause of promoting Kunbi, and I thanked Zaneta when we met in person.”

Asked about the nature of her interaction with Zaneta when she visited the handloom project, Verma said Zaneta and her family were very interested about the entire process, from raw material to weaving of the saree.

“She took a lot of interest in understanding the process and the nitty-gritty in carrying out weaving, she tried it herself on the handloom,” said Verma.

“MP Zaneta was also very impressed that the handloom, set up with help from NGO Goa Sudharop, was able to provide job opportunities to young women from the hinterland of Goa.”

The fashion designer said Zaneta has the potential to inspire Goan women to pursue their dreams.

“One needs to understand and know Zaneta. She is humble, she is an engineer, a professional, a mother of two lovely young kids and wife to Samuel Hurst. She understands family values and is an accomplished member of parliament in the Australian Federal Government. I read a lot of the good work that she is doing for her electorate. So she definitely has the potential to inspire Goan women to pursue their dreams.

When asked for her advice to Zaneta, Verna said: “I would advise Zaneta to keep coming back to your roots (Goa) and when time permit, tell us about your success and encourage us in the meantime while serving the people of Australia. Keep the Goan flag flying high.”

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