Asha Handicrafts: A Ray of Hope

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Harmada is a small village in Rajasthan. Here amidst the dry barren fields and a cluster of thatched mud huts, Ramratan lives and works with his family.

asha Ramratan is a leather producer and an artisan. He makes hand-stitched, cut and embroidered items from camel leather.

Ramratan regularly attends exhibitions organised by the government to promote and sell his works.

But despite receiving sponsorship from the government for the exhibitions, he rarely makes much money. He is forced to pay bribe to the corrupt officials.

However, Ramratan makes up for the loss working directly with Asha Handicrafts Association, a fair trade organisation and NGO which helps him reach the export market he would not have had access otherwise. 

He has been working with Asha since 1992, with orders today contributing to approximately 30 percent of his family income.

Asha is spreading the concepts and benefits of fair trading in India and abroad.

Today thousands of artisans and producer groups depend on Asha Handicrafts for assistance throughout India.

Asha Handicrafts Association is a society formed with the objective of preserving crafts of India through their marketing overseas and providing training in craft development at home.

Craftsmen, who work hard to keep alive the indigenous handloom and handicraft traditions fighting poverty and neglect, form one of the large components of the unorganised sector and are scattered across rural India.

They have always witnessed the profits of their toil going in the pockets of traders and middlemen as they battle poverty, illiteracy and ill-health.

But Asha is a symbol of hope for them. Opening a promising window of opportunity to the artisans, Asha Handicrafts adheres to fair trade policies and undertakes welfare activities for them.

Asha Handicrafts enables the small scale artisans to reach the consumers by circumventing the middlemen and empowering the artisans with the knowledge of the current market trends, international benchmarks and market forecasts.

Asha Handicraft does not stop here. It conducts training programmes and welfare activities for its artisans at different levels. It has a holistic approach and works on different levels. They have undertaken activities in the field of education, health care, environment and livelihood generation.

Educational assistance in the form of financial aid and informal education is provided to the children of artisans belonging to the underprivileged sections.

“We have two separate divisions. One dedicated to trading activity while the other is the resource sector which assesses the current needs of the artisans and conduct training and welfare activities,” says Mr. Allen Almeida of Asha Handicrafts.

Asha Handicrafts has a stable clientele with repeated orders due to observance of rigid quality standards. All the handicrafts are screened at their centralised warehouse before shipment. It believes quality management as the key to the growth of the organisation.

Asked about their future plan, Mr. Almeida says: “Asha Handicraft has a domestic brand ‘Karigar’ for which we already have a shop in place. We have now planned to open a couple of kiosks to tap the domestic market.”

For rural artisans like Ramratan, who are caught between government corruption and unfair competition from the big players, the expansion of Asha Handicrafts indeed offers a ray of hope.

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: : by Thryza Dow : :


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