Empowering rural women by providing livelihood opportunities
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.â€‹
Empowering women through sustainable livelihood is an important component of it. Many organizations are working at the grass-root level to address this issue.
â€‹Jaipur Rugs Foundation has transformed the lives of over 2.7 lacs of rural artisans in India. It was established in 2004 by the visionary Mr. N K Chaudhary, the founder of Jaipur Rugs. In its 18 years of working on the ground, the foundation has relentlessly strived to empower women living in rural areas. In villages that kept women confined to their homes, in veils, without any identity of their own, JRF came as a ray of hope. They have revolutionized the weaver and kathwari communities in over 669 villages across five states in India, namely, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Gujarat.
With a model that focuses on the overall growth of the beneficiaries, JRF works towards developing every aspect of a weaver's life. Right from providing them ration kits, winter clothes, and other essentials to providing them training for a sustainable livelihood, they cover it all. Their frame of work is designed around various sustainable development goals like no poverty, gender equality, good health and well-being, and decent work and economic growth. By aiming for these goals, they have created job opportunities for more than 50000 people, out of which more than 85% are women. Their work is based on deep research carried out meticulously to find out areas to focus upon. Their case-specific projects facilitated 5301 women with education, 25000 with eye care, and a total of 67046 people with door-to-door health care.
Currently, JRF is working on multiple projects in collaboration with major national and international organizations. Some of them include the Government of India- Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of Rajasthan, PMSYM, British council, University of Arts London, Jenny Jones Rugs, HSBC, HCL Samuday, Corporate Rebels Foundation, Feeding India by Zomato, SIDBI, Project Baala, Vision spring, Rajasthan Royals Foundation, Muthoot Group, Indian Oil, United Nations Foundation, American India Foundation and so on.
While establishing his business in the handmade carpet weaving industry, Mr. NK Chaudhary faced a number of challenges that became one of the reasons for JRF’s origin. Amongst them, the most prominent one was untouchability. Untouchability was and to a great extent, still is engraved in the roots of our country. Moreover, most of the weavers in India belong to these oppressed castes. Therefore, breaking the barriers of where they came from and providing them with a dignified life was their most basic objective. Another significant challenge that people face in villages is the lack of opportunities. There was a time when migration was the only way of earning money for the people living in rural areas. While not having the option to migrate, women had to stay at home without any options of earning for themselves.
In order to find solutions to these problems, JRF has organized various programs in collaboration with other organizations in the past 18 years. There are a number of ongoing projects aimed at providing training, creating women leaders, and promoting women entrepreneurship. Some additional ongoing projects are aimed at providing exposure and a life with dignity to the women weavers. New training centers are being opened under a skill development program launched in association with the Corporate Rebels Foundation to increase opportunities in weaving. A leadership program has been launched in association with the British Council to develop more women leaders in the field of carpet weaving. Exposure visits are being organized in association with HCL Samuday to help the weavers gain perspective and fulfill their wish to travel. Thousands of ration kits have been distributed in association with Feeding India and winter care kits have been provided in association with the Goonj Foundation.
The focus of JRF on innovation has led them to create a social innovation lab in Aaspura, Rajasthan. The lab was named after their unique Manchaha collection in which the most skilled weavers were chosen to focus on their designing skills. Through Bunkar Sakhi and Katwari Sakhi program, JRF helps women weavers become leaders by guiding their community. From weaving carpets, their work shifts towards checking the quality of carpets and guiding the new weavers towards achieving the best of their potential.
People tend to wonder what a woman coming from a small village could achieve by weaving carpets in her verandah. Weavers like Prem Devi and Bimla Devi are an example of such people. While the former went as a speaker at a Global Summit, the latter won the German Design Award for her Manchaha. The incessant efforts of JRF in polishing these gems have led to the creation of an international community that doesn’t just value the art of weaving handmade rugs but also values the artisans who work their magic on the ground to create those masterpieces.