It doesn't matter which part of India you travel to; chances are that you will find something interesting being created or made in the local area. There is a reason why the arts and crafts of India are so world renowned and recognised - there is not only a breath of the ethos of this country that lives in every product, but also the immense talent of the craftspeople themselves. However, with more and more machine-made products becoming available, there is a visible gradual decline for handmade arts and crafts.
The importance of keeping the handicraft industry alive and protecting rural artisans
In the simplest of terms, handicraft is something that is made mostly by hand, although some tools and implements could be used. There is normally an immense amount of talent, precision and knowledge that goes into making any and all such arts and crafts. Many times, the knowledge of creating said handicraft might have been passed down through the generations and offering them with support and proper platforms might be the only way to keep the craft alive.
For several centuries, India has been recognised as the home to some of the most intricate handicrafts and these are an inherent part of our culture too. They have allowed rural artisans in India to not only earn a living for themselves and their families, but also earn a place of respect on several global platforms. There are certain art and craft forms that are recognised on a global scale and are highly respected in foreign markets. It is imperative to keep these forms and the people who practise the same alive, because letting it die would mean letting an innate part of our country's culture fade away forever.
The role that the handicraft industry plays in India:
In the recent part, there has been a lot of impetus to local and rural artisans and craftspeople, because there has been a renewed global interest in Indian handicrafts. The fact of the matter is that this is an industry on its own and it has a huge role to play in the lives of the artisans as well as the nation as a whole.
- In the rural and semi-urban areas, the handicrafts industry are large scale employers - several of them employing many members of the same family too.
- Whether it is sold within the country or is exported abroad, it is a method of bringing in money and eventually improving the economy of the country.
- With exports becoming popular, local artisans have been able to access a much larger market and make more money too, since most of the time, the actual investment is on the lower side.
- Handicrafts are a great way of preserving the history and culture of the particular area in which it is made. Many times, they will tell stories of the area, the legends and folklores too.
- Interestingly, since most crafts are made using indigenous and locally sourced materials, they are often eco-friendly too.
What role do NGOs have to play in empowering rural artisans
Whether we would like to accept it or not, there has been a sense of neglect towards rural artisans in India and even though we all like those pretty things to decorate our home with, we might not be aware of the condition of the people who make it. India as a country is so diverse and so multifaceted that finding handicrafts that are just as diverse and multifaceted is actually not much of a task. As a matter of fact, if you ever took the time to travel the length and breadth of this vast nation, you would find several hamlets and villages, which are dedicated to only one art or craft. Kanchipuram and Banaras are recognised the world over for their incredible silk sarees, while towns all around Bidar create only Bidri work.
There is so much to explore in India, but without the help of NGOs, there would be no one truly empowering rural artisans and allowing them to showcase their talent to the world and make a living while doing the same. Here are just some of the ways in which NGOs help support and empower local artisans and craftspeople:
- They work towards supporting and helping rebuild local artisan communities - these become safe spaces where the artisans can work in comfort and create their own networks too.
- NGOs are constantly looking for new platforms, where the work of these local artisans can be displayed and sold.
- Several artisans are often not educated, which means that the chances of them being tricked in terms of money is often high and NGOs work towards safeguarding their interests.
- By providing them a space to work, ensuring them good money for their work, these NGOs are able to offer local artisans a sustainable livelihood.
Here are some popular NGOs that are working towards empowering rural artisans
Craftizen Handicrafts: A Bengaluru based organisation that has been working towards empowering rural artisans and giving them a better life. They concentrate mainly on a model where they sell products directly to other businesses, rather than customers. They also offer help with customisations that a business might require and translate the same effectively to the artisans. Currently, they have multiple initiatives, all of which are directed towards the betterment of the artisans. Over time, they have been able to reach and help more than 2000 artisans and they are involved with a variety of craftspeople.
Dastkar: Established in 1981, Dastkar has been working to support the traditional craftspeople of our country, especially those who are based out of Indian villages. Their team works almost exclusively to empower women artisans in rural India and allow them to earn an honest livelihood. They offer skill training, productive collaborations and even help them design and innovate to build new products, which will earn more money and appreciation. They organise local markets or bazaars, which enables the craftspeople to sell their wares at a larger scale.
Jaipur Rugs Foundation: Having given more than 40,000 artisans the chance to display their talent and skills, Jaipur Rugs Foundation is involved in more than just rugs and carpets. There are several artisans who work under their umbrella to learn skills like weaving and knitting, especially women, which then enables them to not only improve their craft, but also make an earning out of it. The NGO also organises training sessions with professionals and their attempt remains empowering artisans in such a manner that they are able to continue working, without having to migrate.
Rangsutra Foundation: Rangsutra Foundation is based out of Rajasthan and works in the direction of enabling local artisans to create a sustainable livelihood for themselves. They also work towards ensuring that the living conditions of these artisans and their families are vastly improved. Although they are based out of Rajasthan, their work is spread into neighbouring states including Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh and even the north-eastern state of Manipur. Another method by which they are empowering the rural artisans is by supporting those who are also part time farmers.
Skilled Samaritan Foundation: One of the NGOs that empowers women artisans in rural India is the Skilled Samaritan Foundation and it has been able to empower more than 3500 women, by helping them increase their annual incomes. The women working with them create a wide range of products, mainly of which are made using plastic and fabric waste. Their Skill Lab Initiative has allowed local artisans to collaborate with global designers and experiment without fear to create unique products, which they are able to sell at global platforms.
Karigar Clinic: Many artisans might be really good at what they do, but in the changing times, they might not be sure of how to sell their products in the best possible manner. They might not know how to upsell or use digital means to make sales - that is where the team of Karigar steps in! They not only assist empower artisans and offer them business related training, but also assistance in marketing and giving them methods to improve their sales. Their focus remains on working with artisans who can create handmade products that are sustainable.
At Give Discover, we bring together several such NGOs that are working to not only support rural artisans in India, but also empower them and give them the platforms they deserve. Through the efforts of these NGOs and through the generous donations of the public, these talented artisans and craftspeople will be able to thrive and keep their talents alive!