Facilitating livelihood solutions for women,
especially from the lower castes, has been one of the
cornerstone of SURE’s program strategy from the
The bio physical climatic conditions make the area endemic to drought with extremely limited on farm choices. This deficient and seasonal agrarian context forces desert communities to look for alternative sources of income or coping strategies for survival in lean periods. Rich craft traditions of these communities are one such source of income. Craft traditions of Thar, notably wood work and handicrafts, are well known examples of cultural skills getting commercialized with coming in of a distinct handicraft market. The primary producers i.e. craftspeople continue to work at very low wages. The exodus of the Pak refugee communities from the Indo Pak War of 1971 had brought to Barmer district communities who had exquisite handicraft traditions of appllique, embroidery, quilting, etc. The handicraft program of SURE was initiated in such a context where sustained wages and freedom from indebtedness was what these dexterous women embroiderers needed. The programme began with 224 women of the Pak Oustee community settled in 36 villages of the Chohtan region. A continuous flow of good quality diversified range of products is needed to sustain in the competitive and fast changing handicraft market. Different interventions of SURE have strived to form bridges between the worlds of producer and buyer Some main ones have been:
The Craft Development Centre at Binjrad has been the hub of local production, working with these women groups in different villages in the interiors of Thar. Today SURE works with around thousand women craftspeople. These women have traditional skills and capabilities that are further honed by design inputs by SURE. Participating in the handicraft production through SURE has brought women artisans higher and more sustained incomes. Most earn Rs. 3000 to 4000 per month. These women craftspeople have got an exposure to workings of the handicraft market. Their participation in exhibitions in cities all over India has given them confidence and imparted a sense of dignity about their cultural skills. These women have become trailblazers of social change in their settlements leading communities to participate in schooling of children, regular and transparent functioning of PDS shops, ICDS centres and access to basic entitlements for an improved quality of life. The success of the handicraft programme of SURE has provided women with an alternative dignified non farm livelihood solution. Over time SURE has emerged as a dignified employer in region that is otherwise known for its exploitative mass production of handicrafts. SURE has been advocating for inclusion of cultural skills in work allocations under MGNREGA.
With support from Department of Science and
Technology, GoI, SURE initiated a Women
Technology Centre to enable women access to low
cost production technologies that are easy to acquire
and have a market. The interventions draw upon
indigenous knowledge of communities as well as
introduce low cost scientific technologies. The farm
sector interventions are made with the support from
KVK and range from cultivation of medicinal plants,
horticulture plantation, kitchen garden, seed banks,
nursery development and Vermicompost pits.
After a successful achievement of Vermicompost programme in Barmer district, there were demands from the neighbouring districts to set up similar initiatives. Thus 13 units were started in Jalore, 5 in Jaisalmer. With the help of KVK, 103 units have been established in villages of Barmer. This has had a positive impact on termite reduction, augmenting organic carbon, increasing soil fertility and yield (by 18-25%) in particularly vegetable and fruit orchards. Women Technology Centre has benefitted more than 5000 families till now. Mamta kit production, dai training, carpet making, medicinal plant production have been some of the popular technologies for women livelihoods.
Mitigating Poverty in Western Rajasthan (MPOWER), an IFAD assisted initiative of the GoR, was started in 2011 in Baitu block of Barmer district. The project works in 78 villages. Till now it has created around 350 SHG and is working with 50250 women. The focus of this progamme is to make the BPL women aware and access benefits of govt. schemes. Some of the selected women beneficiaries have been imparted training in marketable skills to start small entrepreneurship initiatives for augmenting their family incomes. Technologies for Women Livelihoods Society