Over the last decade, Darbar Sahitya Sansad has created over 8,000 women entrepreneurs in handicrafts, agriculture, vegetable cultivation, dairy among other livelihood initiatives in rural Odisha. Mohd Mustaquim reports the social change
Darbar Sahitya Sansad (DSS) was established as a literary organisation in 1982. Gradually it started focusing on social development. With a focus on empowering rural women, over the period, several women empowerment programmes were started. At present, DSS operates in Khordha, Puri, Kandhmal and Balasore districts of Odisha.
“For empowering rural women, we are focusing on livelihood creation by providing training, credit, entrepreneurship training, market linkages. We conduct all sorts of activities which create livelihoods for them. Every month we are creating livelihoods for 100 to 150 women,” says Kedareshwar Choudhury, Chief Excutive, DSS.
“Over the last decade, we have created over 8,000 women entrepreneurs in handicrafts, agriculture, vegetable cultivation, dairy among other rural livelihood initiatives. Around 800 women entrepreneurs are engaged with handicrafts only. Further, they provide employment to the rural women in their respective areas,” he adds.
For social development, a number of challenges came in the way, from funds, staff to infrastructure. For this, DSS started mobilising the government funding as well as outside funding. There are marketing hubs in and around such as Bhubaneswar, Pipli, Puri and Konark which register good number of tourists footfall. People are convinced with Odisha handicrafts easily due to its popularity. Some artisans do their own marketing and sell their products by their own while the organisation has separate a marketing unit. “We have also promoted around 300 handicraft cooperatives. They also provide end to end services in the value chain,” Choudhury further adds.
Since the formation in 35 years ago, the organisation has been focussing on empowering tribal women in rural Odisha by generating livelihoods for them. Going forward, DSS is expanding the similar activities from coastal Odisha to the hilly and tribal areas of western Odisha for the farmers, schedule castes and schedule tribes.
Handloom & Handicrafts in India
Despite providing second largest employment in India, the handloom and handicraft sector is the most neglected and undermined sector. As per 6th Economic Census – 2013-14, there were 1.87 million establishments with 4.2 million employees are working in the sector across the country. However, an industry report estimates that 11.65 million Indians were engaged in the sector in 2013 which is expected to touch 17.79 million by 2022.
Among the States, with 17.62 percent, West Bengal had the largest share in total number of Handicraft and Handloom establishments followed by Uttar Pradesh with 16.55 percent, Odisha with 7.8 percent, Andhra Pradesh with 7.54 percent and Tamil Nadu with 6.8 percent.
Handloom is predominantly a rural phenomenon as 87 percent of weaver households are located in the villages while only remaining 13 percent are located in the urban areas. The sector needs special attention from the government, from the market and from the entrepreneurs.