• Navmalika Sidhu

Helping artisans cope with the pandemic

Updated: Apr 29

We’re all in the same boat, but not everyone has a life jacket or a float to hang on to. In fact, the most vulnerable are barely hanging on by a finger.

As we take stock of the impact of the pandemic and the consequent lockdown, we need to consider small businesses and communities. Weavers, artisans, craftspeople and migrant garment workers have all been impacted in unimaginable ways, by the virus itself as well as the loss of livelihoods. While the pandemic has reached the villages, medical relief aid and SOS calls are still focused on cities. The lockdown has disrupted supply chains to and from the artisans, and small businesses have been impacted by that as well as by the massive recession in sales. These artisans and their communities have little to no means of reaching out or of sustaining their livelihoods, except through those they work with.

While we’re now wise to how movements like #whomademyclothes can make a difference in what we have come to know of as normal circumstances, these movements are not even a drop in the ocean, for where we are at, now. How can we help? What can we do? Raising funds is a good place to start. Buying local, buying handmade and buying where you empower those who made your clothes is another.

But you want to be sure you’re putting your money where you really want it to go. So we did the homework for you, and rounded up a few dependable initiatives, powered by a few courageous organizations, that you can contribute to, so as to help those at the grassroots.

The Artisan Movement

The Organizations: Raaha Consulting, Ka-Sha, Loom & Hand

What they’re doing: The collective initiative by Ka-Sha, Loom & Hand and Raaha Consulting was launched on May 17, to support weavers and artisans by giving access to consumers to buy directly from the makers, not just creating funding but empowering them and helping them growing their businesses. Within two weeks’ time, The Artisan Shop had moved from 14 artisans and 400 products, to 16 artisans with over 500 products. They will also be shipping internationally as soon as the lockdown lifts.

What you can do: Buy, volunteer or share and support through social media to amplify their efforts.

Where to buy: https://www.raaha.co/the-artisan-shop

The Artisan Support Fund

The Organization: Dastkar

What they’re doing: The OG crafts collective, popular for always placing the craftsperson at the heart of everything they do, has reopened its Artisan Support Fund, which they’re using to provide whatever help an artisan or artisan community may require: Medical supplies, provisions, the means to pay wages and buy raw material to kickstart production again, access to orders, buyers and an e-marketing platform, online reskilling and training.

Moreover, they are bringing stories and updates to their audience, to help create awareness about the various battles of artisans across India.

What you can do: Donate* to the Artisan Support Fund. Of course, no donation is too small, but bear in mind that the processing charges of a donation less than ₹1,000 make the donation unviable.

*50% tax exemption under Section 80G.

Where to donate: https://www.dastkar.org/donation/

The Artisan Rehabilitation Fund

The Organization: Creative Dignity

What they’re doing: A volunteer movement working on craft relief, rehabilitation and rejuvenation, Creative Dignity is using its Pan-India network of craft-related organizations and professionals working with communities by raising funds and preparing artisan leaders to take preventive and pre-emptive measures. The funds will help the artisans get basic supplies and verified medical advice, so they are better prepared for home isolation and community care in times when the health infrastructure is under severe strain. Creative Dignity is also helping artisans get medical help by inviting volunteers from the medical fraternity—doctors, nurses, medical students and others—to provide medical suppor

What you can do: Volunteer, if you belong to the medical community, and can take a few hours out of your schedule—yes yes, we know you have your hands full, but these people need you too! Amplify resources, building awareness about the initiative and the need for Covid-19 prevention and care in rural areas. Last but not the least, donate towards providing basic supplies and medical advice. 100% of the donations are used for the artisans and craftspeople.

Where to donate: You can donate through direct bank transfer or by scanning their UPI code. Details at https://linktr.ee/CreativeDignity. For international donations, reach out to shyam@careativedignity.org or sankar@industree.org.in.

The Artisan Relief Fund

The Organization: The Crafts Council of India

What they’re doing: The Crafts Council of India, along with their sister concerns, has reopened The Artisan Relief Fund, which provides rations and medicines to artisans as well as cash capital for resuming production.They have established helplines for artisans and weavers who can call for assistance or if in distress.

What you can do: Donate*. Though only donations upwards of ₹5,000 are being accepted. *All donations exempt under Section 80G.

Where to donate: Viabank transfer. Separate account for national and international donations.

All details available at https://www.craftscouncilofindia.in/ArtisanReliefFund/.

The Support Fund

The Organization: Kala Raksha

What they’re doing: A preserver of traditional crafts, providing employment to more than 600 women artisans of Kutch area for the last 25 years, Kala Raksha is an NGO that is currently using the funds it’s raising to assist these women rebuild their lives, while empowering them. Due to the portended boost in production, funds will also be used to procure raw materials, creating additional benefits for these artisans, offering them the option to work in their homes at their own schedules.

What you can do: Support Kala Raksha, ‘with an intention to build capacity rather than giving hand-outs’. They are also accepting volunteers to help them in their endeavours.

Where to support: http://www.kala-raksha.org/covid19.htm.

Raise With AIACA

Photo by Yassin Mohammadi on Unsplash

The Organization: All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association

What they’re doing: The membership-based organization is aimed to develop commercially sustainable models of livelihood for the handloom and handicrafts sector. They have set up a livelihood recovery fundraiser to support the per day wage and cost of raw material for artisans and weavers.

What you can do: Donate* to the cause as a whole, or choose an artisan through their livelihood-centric donations, details of which are available on the AIACA website. These donations will support the wages and pay for the raw material for these artisans as they attempt to resurrect their livelihoods with dignity.

*50% tax exemption under Section 80G.

Where to donate: https://www.aiacaonline.org/campaigns/aiaca-collection/donate.

The Artisan Connect

Photo by Firdaus Roslan on Unsplash

The Organization: Antaran

What they’re doing: A craft-based livelihood programme aimed at rejuvenating handloom clusters by creating entrepreneur-led microenterprises, Antaran has begun The Artisan Connect initiative for raising funds, to support those struck by the pandemic by fulfilling their immediate needs, in the face of acute shortage of cash flow and sales. To ensure economic subsistence, artisans from six clusters, Maniabandha-Odisha, Kamrup-Assam, Dimapur-Nagaland, Gopalpur-Odisha, Venkatagiri-Andhra Pradesh and Nalbari-Assam are offering their products for sale on the website.

What you can do: Buy and pay directly to the artisan’s bank account. The instant payments will help the artisans sustain not only themselves but also their associates. Be patient with the delays in your packages—the products are handmade with care and the country is in lockdown.

Where to buy: https://www.antaranartisanconnect.in/extra/covid19/home1. For any queries, you can directly reach out to the artisan, or Antaran’s team members through the website.

If you’re an artisan, a weaver or a craftsperson whose only means of earning has come to a standstill—privileged of us to assume you’re reading this, but in the off-chance this reaches you—we know times are hard and no one has any idea how long this will last. But we hear you, and we are trying to help you the best we can.