Data says that 200 Million people depend on crafts for livelihood in India and over 75% of them are women. Yet, as people focused on the businesses, the restaurants, artisans and craftsmen living in faraway places were somehow minimized. Their communities and families all over the world suffered major losses and brands pitched in to help—but as with all Covid-related battles, their efforts have been akin to fighting a forest fire with a watering can.
The artisan and handmade economy is crumbling under the impact of shutdowns as the second wave of Covid-19 in India turns into a tsunami.
Enter Raaha, a global impact consulting firm and a force that has powered growth in the artisan economy through impact led solutions. They are a South Asian women-founded company operating between the San Francisco Bay Area and India.
One of Raaha’s many efforts is in building a transparent and fairer gifting movement that leads women artisans in developing economies towards sustainable growth and an equitable future.
Its been all hands on deck at Raaha through the pandemic, where their efforts—including employment-generating craft-based workshops hosted by indigenous artisans, and promoting ethical and intent-driven gifting through partnerships with companies and social enterprises— have been amplified.
After reaching out to 250+ artisan families through a ration drive to dive more deeply into their needs, one response resounded: ‘We need to sell’.
An ongoing initiative is The Artisan Shop, a covid relief initiative by Raaha, Ka-sha, and Loom & Hand. This is a movement of collective action to support Weavers and Artisans by giving access to global consumers to buy directly from the makers, thus eliminating middlemen.
Raaha identified 18 artisans and uploaded 500+ handloom products they have in stock onto an online shop. All prices were decided by the artisans and 100% of the proceeds went back to them.
Thus, there was a reduction of inventory, reduced reliability on donations, and access to open economies like the US. Importantly for consumers, they got to connect with weavers and artisans through a transparent sales process.
And importantly for the artisans, it kept the looms and workshops running.
In 2 months of operations, the artisan shop has supported 20+ weavers with 6,000$ sales, customers in 8 countries. Through the sales, the weavers have been able to buy raw material and pay salaries, plus get visibility via our marketing and outreach campaigns driving direct buyers to their pages. The initiative has been going so well that co-founder Radhika Gupta reports that the team has even had buyers reach out to volunteer with and mentor artisans.
What was initially supposed to be a 30-day initiative is now to be kept going until artisans are financially secure again with orders and sales. The team plans to update collections every 4 months with inventory in stock by different artisans and crafts.
If you would like to help the artisan and weaver community, you can do so by visiting The Artisan Shop. Profiles of the artisans can be viewed here.
Love handlooms? You might like this article on Kshitija Mruthyunjaya and her project, Hosa Arambha