Cheat sheet on the craft culture of India

|Cheat sheet on the craft culture of India

August, 2021

Ever curious about the Indian handicraft industry primarily run by women but afraid to approach journals covered with dense data? Fear not! Here’s your cheat sheet.

6 minutes read

‘Empowering women is a prerequisite for creating a good nation, when women are empowered, a society with stability is assured. Empowerment of women is essential as their thoughts and their value systems lead to the development of good family, good society and ultimately good nation’  – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

A handicraft is any kind of a decorative/useful piece of work/art that is completely made by hand or rather labeled as handmade. It includes work with textiles, moldable and grid materials, paper, plant-based fibers, etc. Like folk art, handicraft output often has cultural/religious significance in craftivism. A large number of items – Bagh prints, banner making, batik, calligraphy, canvas work, cross-stitch, crochet, darning, embroidery, knitting, felting, lace-making, needle work, spinning, tapestry, etc. are practiced across the world including India. 

Handicrafts – replete with cultural significance and political uses, are not surprisingly nebulous public policy concerns. In some countries, handicrafts policies fall under the domain of creative industries, while in others it still remains under small-scale industries or home-based industries. Basically, in developing countries including India, it could be seen as a dying sector but nothing is compactly done to push it as a poverty – alleviation tool. Artisanal trade is the second-largest employer in developing countries, behind agriculture, articulating unique expressions of arts, culture and heritage.

In India, from the very beginning, women have dominated the area of household activities, and hence, the handicraft sector. 

The sector provides enormous economic stability, better market access, self-organization and capacity building skills and plays a pivotal role in strengthening women’s financial status for peace and security. Focusing on the empowerment of women naturally improves the economy as well as the stability of a country.

Besides being an income source for women, the artisanal sector provides affordable, flexible, sustainable work environments to work from their own dwelling along with other indigenous women. 

The nimble fingers turn every article into something useful and productive. The role of women is particularly spoken of and well established in this area wherein the female workers put in every effort and have taken this small-scale industry to great heights so much so that certain articles have acquired international fame and recognition. For example, the beautiful saree industry, requiring Zari work, beadwork, embroidery, etc., is dominated by women. It provides them a field to display their inherited artistic skills and capabilities. They turn pieces of fabric or any normal clothing material into an eye-catching work of art, intricate with detailed work, beautifying the entire article.  

Such fields are raising the economic standards of women especially in the rural/semi-urban areas and above all making them self-reliant, spreading awareness about being financially sound which ultimately if we count, add bits to nation building.

However, globalization needed them to be more commercially and technically sound, and the formation of small groups, etc. have helped them overcome their doubts, fears, and other concerns. Moreover, increased awareness and the spread of education are entitling women from all areas to collectively come together and work in unity for the betterment of themselves and the women in the future. In this light, proper training and awareness about Government programs are necessary for women artisans. 

However, globalization needed them to be more commercially and technically sound, and the formation of small groups, etc. have helped them overcome their doubts, fears and other concerns.

Sewing thread and needles

In a study report of 60 women artisans of the Zari cluster in Panchla town of the Howrah District, in West Bengal, the age has been categorized into 5 groups. The majority of the respondents consisted of 48% women belonging to the age group 31-40 years, 25 % belonging to 21-30 years of age, 15 % of women belonging to 41-50 years and above, and 7 % women from 18-21 years of age. 

No women were found illiterate, 55 % of the women had studied < 10th standard, 30 % women had studied up to class 10th, 12 % women had passed 12th class exam. Out of the total respondents, 80 % were married, 20 % were single. In the selected area, 55 % of the respondents were having 1-3 family members, 38% were having 4-6 members and 7 % were having more than 7 members. 40% of the women were having a monthly income of 5000-10,000, another 40 % were getting above Rs. 10,000 and the rest were earning between Rs. 2000- 5000 per month. 

It was found that the chief hindrances faced by women artisans was lack of family encouragement (65%),  insufficient own capital (53%), competition (45%), dual role of women (43%), lack of self-confidence (30%). 

Women artisans work hard to keep their family afloat. They face different practical challenges while balancing between their business and home-centered responsibilities. Usually, women balance both business as well as family. The various challenges faced by women entrepreneurs among the many include inadequate training and access to information ranking first followed by need of awareness about governmental programs, work-family interface, legal barriers and procedures and women’s safety and gender based violence.

The various challenges faced by women entrepreneurs among the many include inadequate training and access to information ranking first followed by need of awareness about governmental programs, work-family interface, legal barriers and procedures and women’s safety and gender based violence.

It is depicted that proper training and special awareness about governmental programs are necessary for women artisans. 

The study sought to assess the hindrances faced by women artisans practicing Zari craft in Panchla town. The intent was to find ways to enhance their income and develop a sustainable livelihood. 

Various types of assistance are offered in terms of information and financial assistance but the better solution will be in terms of offering more pertinent financial assistance to artisans based on their business size and revenue earning capacity. Financial assistance to the women artisans should be liberalized and increased so as to develop the society. 

The sustained and coordinated effort from all dimensions would help the women move into entrepreneurial activities thus providing social and economic development for the family members and equal importance for themselves.

2021-08-13T13:06:18+00:00 August, 2021|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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