How pandemic-hit artisans overcame their challenges with grit

·3 min read

This is a joint effort by Dastkar and the Population Foundation of India helped artisans to innovate and market their crafts

Among the communities hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown were the worst hit communities of daily wage workers, migrants, craftspeople and artisans. COVID-19 struck the handicraft industry hard and the shortage of resources, materials and retail opportunities left it struggling for survival. During this critical time, Dastkar, an NGO established in 1981 to support Indian crafts, along with the Population Foundation of India worked together to generate opportunities for artisans, helping them to adapt to a new ‘normal” and sell their products.

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Population Foundation of India in its ongoing ‘Himmat Hai Toh Jeet Hai’ campaign celebrates such positive stories and one of their heroes is artisan Choti Yadav who says, "I have been associated with Sadhana (A women’s handicraft enterprise started in 1988) for over 29 years. I do fabric-centric handiwork and in 2019, won the Fairtrade Award. And then Corona struck suddenly, and life turned bleak. At this time, Dastkar reached out and I was able to find a way to go on. Now, when I return to my village with my earnings, I can motivate my sisters to do the same."

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Artisan Abhishek Chaudhary who once made a living by selling hand-dyed Shibori sarees recalls what happened when COVID-19 became widespread. Fabric markets were closed, there was no transport and no customers. With Dastkar’s assistance, he began crafting hand-dyed Shibori masks and started earning money and received appreciation for his work. Both he and Choti say, "Thanks to the support we received, we discovered that "himmat hai toh jeet hai."

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Laila Tyabji, chairperson, Dastkar says, "Crafts people need all the 'himmat' that they can get. They are always the first to experience the impact of any natural or man-made disaster and they have no social security or insurance. Despite this, their resilient spirit enables them to innovate and ideate through these challenges. Masks are one way they have found to create new livelihoods and opportunities for themselves. Dastkar and the Population Foundation of India are delighted to support them and wish them all 'himmat' in this time of crisis."

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The Himmat Hai Toh Jeet Hai campaign by Population Foundation of India that was launched in September with a stirring anthem, continues to celebrate stories of courage and hope during the ongoing pandemic. The campaign is guided by renowned film and theatre director Feroz Abbas Khan. Khan is PFI’s Creative Advisor and has directed their flagship trans-media edutainment show Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon. Through this campaign, Population Foundation of India wants to showcase real stories of fortitude exhibited by people across society from frontline workers to COVID-19 survivors.

About Population Foundation of India: Population Foundation of India was founded in 1970 by a group of socially committed industrialists led by the late JRD Tata and Dr. Bharat Ram. Population Foundation of India, a national non-governmental organisation, supports and promotes gender-sensitive and people-friendly population, health and development programmes and policies. The organisation works with governments, both at the national and state levels, and with NGOs in the areas of strategic engagement, community action for health, adolescent reproductive & sexual health as well as social & behaviour change communication.

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