KalaGhar: Social Enterprise and Women Empowerment

India boasts of a rich handicrafts industry – its history, as colourful as the regions, they come from. In recent years, entrepreneurs have ventured in handicrafts-related start-ups. Rajnish Singh writes about one such social enterprise – KalaGhar promotes the handicrafts from Odisha and creates employment opportunities for the rural women – and has been making waves in this sector.

Starting its journey from a small village in Odisha’s Balasore district, with six artisans five years ago, KalaGhar is not only creating employment opportunities for rural women artisans, but also reviving handicrafts in Odisha.

The craft-based social enterprise has empowered over 200 rural women, aged between 19 and 50 years. Now, these women earn Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 per day.

This craft form has also become a source of reform for the prisoners lodged at the Baripada jail in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district

KalaGhar works like an e-commerce platform, inspired by the concept of ‘arte util’, meaning ‘useful art’ in Spanish. KalaGhar aims to improve the financial capacity of the Sabai artisans in Mayurbhanj district, which homes 45 tribal communities. They not only help the artisans develop the products, but also assist them to understand design and trends.

From creating urban tastes and preferences and at the same time retaining the Indian art form’s history and legacy, KalaGhar works with various grass-roots level artists, NGOs and self-help groups and assist them in understanding minimalistic and contemporary designs.

Covering over 10-15 villages in Mayurbhanj and Balasore districts in Odisha, the initiative has been ensuring social and economic empowerment for women, by complementing their skills and the art of embellishment, by adding new freshness to the art through training.

Started in July 2016, by sisters Megha and Shipra Agarwal, KalaGhar is empowering women artisans by creating dignified livelihood opportunities, while sending 100 percent sustainable home decor products made with natural fibre to the market.

“We started our journey in a small village in Balasore district with six artisans. Currently, we are working with over 200 artisans from Mayurbhanj and Balasore,” Shipra says.

She further said that the women can work at their homes during their free time and generate their own earnings.

“In the beginning, we used to visit and approach these women, but several of them have come to us and expressed their desire to work. We provide them with necessary training and also pay them Rs 150 to 250 per day, as per the time they spend with us, be it learning the handicraft skills or shaping the art which they already know.”

“Sabita, Subhadra, Aarti, Namita and many more from Pratappur village have got employment and are enjoying their work, along with handling their routine work at their respective homes”, Shipra said.

“We strive hard to be innovative in our product concepts, designs and processes,” Shipra said, adding that the enterprise provides a medium of livelihood to the women artisans of Odisha.

Intricate works of Pipili, Pattachitra paintings, delicate silver filigree jewellery, Paralakhemundi, tribal dhokra figurines, and Sabai grass weavings – all these, are art forms belonging to Odisha. But the Agarwal sisters felt that lakhs of artisans working on this art were not getting their share.

So, to revive the craft market, they founded KalaGhar in 2016. With this, they aimed to revive the handicraft industry in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

To give social meaning to their venture, the sisters also collaborated with the Baripada jail and conducted a weeklong workshop on Sabai weaving for the prisoners housed there. (IANS)

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