Banking on rural art form, this Rajasthan woman is paving the way for women empowerment!

Kashidakari from Rajasthan has made its way from rural households to high-end stores across the globe!

While women empowerment is undoubtedly a multi-dimensional concept, the crux of it essentially lies in the economic independence of females. Dedicating her efforts towards this goal, Lata Kachhawaha from Barmer, Rajasthan is helping the women in the state to sell their embroidery crafts to clients in foreign nations. Besides empowering the women, her initiatives have also aided in fetching international recognition for Kashidakari, a treasured kind of handicraft from Rajasthan.

Journey of art from village homes to global brands

Kashidakari is a heritage art form from the state which is used to adorn shawls, handkerchiefs, bed covers, cushions and bags and a list of other things. Informing about the beginning of her journey, Lata said, "Three decades ago, life in Barmer was quite different as there were very few women working in fields. While there was one woman posted in the Home Guards Department, there were two to three widows serving in schools. So bringing out women to fields to work was quite challenging but it was not impossible,"

After a troubling episode in life, she visited Jodhpur where social work caught her attention. Motivated by her intuitions, she became a part of an organisation called Sure (Society to Uplift Rural Economy), founded by Magraj Jain.

She informs that the initial training program groups included 100-200 women but this number undertook a growth trajectory, touching 15,000 in the next 20 years. By linking these women to national and global markets, the project has guided them towards a decent source of income. Displayed in umpteen exhibitions of Germany, Japan, Singapore and Sri Lanka, the products prepared by these women have garnered widespread acclaim. From articles of home decor, the art has won patrons amongst notable patrons like Fabindia, Ikea, and Rangsutra.

Kashidakari- a famed art by women from the Meghwal community

Speaking about her first days in Barmer, Lata tells, "The conditions in Barmer were tough at the time when I came as droughts were regular features. Also, there were no roads and transportation and communication in remote areas was a challenge. Further, the biggest issue was water shortage. We saw how women who were working with their embroidery art were fleeced by a few merchants acting as middlemen who sold Kashidakari items in the market, leaving families to receive very little income, mostly Rs 200."

She acquaints that a large of the women involved in this activity have sufficient skills in Kashidakari embroidery. Usually, they are from the Meghwal community whose families find new homes in the region post the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Observing their talent, Lata committed herself to expand the reach of this art form, so that improved financial benefits could accrue to these women.

Keeping up with evolving fashion trends in the country, Lata collaborated with trained designers from the National Institute of Design, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and Dastkar in 1994. Through the workshops conducted by them, over 250 designs were developed in alignment with the fashion standards of the time. Later, the women were taken to Delhi Haat marking their first train ride and their experiences inspired the promoters for bigger schemes.

A social activist award recognised with multiple awards

Lata tells that women and girls across different generations are involved in this project now. While the daughters are contributing to their family incomes, they are also being able to continue their studies.

Through her enterprising plans, Lata has carved a niche for herself in the social development sectors. Awarded by the Government of Switzerland with the International Prize for Women Creativity in Rural Areas, Lata has also won a number of state laurels like the Mahila Shakti Award and Senior Citizens Service Award.

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