After Hansiba, the business enterprise of rural artisans of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) that has gone global, the organisation is now mulling over expanding another handicraft brand from its stable, powered by its cooperatives.
In line with this, the Sewa Co-operative Federation, which has around 90,000 members from 105 coorperatives, reopened its “Design Sewa” initiative in the renovated “Sewa ni Haveli”. Armed with a Rs 1.58 crore funding from the National Culture Fund (NCF) and sponsored by the Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (RECL), a Government of India Enterprise, the 100-year-old building will be opened by Sewa founder Ela Bhatt, along with NCF CEO Manisha Sinha and RECL director P J Thakkar in Ahmedabad .
The Haveli, bought by SEWA 25 years back, has 500 women associated with it. They contribute to a brand called Sewa Kalakruti, which has one outlet in Ahmedabad. It was damaged during the 2001 earthquake and has undergone 10-month-long restoration work. A boutique will soon come up at the Haveli, where products made by women artisans can be sold.
“We want to make the brand more commercially viable so that women artisans return to their traditional crafts. We can completely eliminate middlemen so that artisans can get 65 per cent of the total cost of the production. The brand Sewa Kalakruti evolved from ‘Design Sewa’. It was set up for artisans to create, modify and recreate designs. Sewa Kalakruti currently has one marketing outlet and connects women from 105 cooperatives of Sewa, of which 13 artisan cooperatives operate out of the Haveli. We have an archives section which houses all the documentation work of the designs produced here over the years. We are looking to train 1,500 women artisans in the next two years in their traditional craft skills,” said Lalita Krishnaswami, chairperson, Sewa Cooperative Federation.
”Sewa ni Haveli” is a three-storey British-Colonial-style building in Astodia area of Ahmedabad, created by Sewa Cooperative Federation 25 years back to enable and train artisans to get in touch with their skills and traditional designs and help them create, adapt and improvise design for contemporary market. The building was introduced as a part of the “Craft Walk” organised by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) last year.
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“Hansiba is different from our brand as it caters to rural artisans while this initiative is led through cooperatives. Through this endeavour, we are also trying to restore the heritage of Ahmedabad as the building is located in the old city,” she added.