Traditional crafts like Chabhari and Binna are made up of wild grass and palm leaves. A chabhari is a traditional tray or container used to serve food to family members and guests. In the past, binna was used by family members as a traditional seat. Members of the self-help group (SHG) are engaged in the trade and buy everything locally. Making coasters, wall decorations, pen stands, roti boxes, jewellery boxes, and laundry bags all employ this skill. In order to make the crafts usable and beneficial, Jammu & Kashmir Rural Livelihood Mission (JKRLM) wants to restore the tradition and to modernise it. This project supports the livelihoods and economy of SHG women members while being environmentally sustainable.
Traditional grass crafts passed down from one generation to the next, are regarded as a vital component of Jammu and Kashmir’s cultural legacy. It is an art form in which functional and decorative items are entirely handmade using only basic tools and readily available raw materials like grass and palm leaves. The labour was performed in an unorganised manner by a large number of SHG women, who typically made them for home use and sold them at pitifully low prices when they did. However, because there is more demand for environmentally friendly items, their prices have climbed.
JKRLM carried out surveys to identify the women artisans after determining the scope of this livelihood activity with Chabhari and Binna (Aasan). Following this identification, workshops for making grass handicrafts were held in rural communities like Kheral, Malair, and Saloon in the district of Reasi. Many initiatives have been taken by JKRLM and the Reasi district administration with the aim of empowering women and creating alternative sources of income for them. Identified SHG members were trained in this traditional handicraft, and many skill development trainings were imparted to support and increase their capacities. This has encouraged the market’s demand for premium grass handicraft products and the growth of the production base for mass-produced, utility-based, and lifestyle goods.
This project promotes the protection and preservation of ageing traditional crafts. The activity involves 100 SHG members of the ‘Naari Ki Pehchaan‘ cluster level federation, and JKRLM is funding the training and raw materials.
There were many difficulties with the intervention. Since the artists of grass handicrafts were not receiving the proper attention, efforts had been put into bringing them together. Obstacles including low financial returns from the products compared to the labour, lack of market and marketing knowledge, current market demand, competition from machine-made products, a lack of infrastructure facilities, and a lack of enthusiasm among the younger generation in the traditional crafts were addressed.
Sensitising the society
Numerous workshops were held in both urban and rural areas to advance the knowledge and abilities of SHG members. To give the women the tools they needed to run their businesses successfully, skill demonstrations, design instruction, creative and product development seminars, pricing, marketing, branding, and microfinancing were organised. They were also taught about modern marketing techniques for promotions, the location of their products in the market, and how to set prices accordingly.
They received updates and training on how to use techniques to balance using both new and old designs. The SHG women were educated on the benefits of pursuing this livelihood as an additional source of income. Increased connection with online retailers and government agencies for the sale of their goods was encouraged, enabling SHG members to learn about consumer preferences. In order to foster collaboration between the crafts persons and urban designers and to investigate the potential, JKRLM started an awareness initiative.
The project has been instrumental in empowering 100 SHG women, who are now self-reliant in their abilities and have achieved financial freedom. The market’s response to the group’s products has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has fulfilled orders for numerous government agencies. Their clientele includes numerous e-commerce retailers, academic institutions, and numerous additional clients from both metropolitan and rural areas. Their annual turnover has reached Rs 5 lakh with just 50,000 rupees input costs.
For the restoration of the traditional craft of creating grass products, these ladies have been featured in the Union Ministry of Rural Development’s inspirational stories of atamnirbhar (self-reliant) women.
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