COVID support: From running an ongoing fundraiser to identifying those in need, Raaha is stepping up for the artisans
At a time like this, artisans of various communities have been severely impacted due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. From the loss of lives to livelihood, the artisan community have had to battle it all! Few organisations are aiming to lend support during these distressing times. Raaha, a women-founded company is supporting the artisans with solutions and aims to build a transparent and fairer gifting movement that leads women artisans in developing economies towards sustainable growth and an equitable future.
They have raised and allocated resources for their upliftment. Raaha is a for-profit social enterprise that was founded by Mumbai-based Amrita Haldipur and San Francisco-based Radhika Gupta in November, last year with a virtual team of five, which is constantly trying to help the craftsmen. We caught up with Radhika, during their ongoing Loom and Hand textile shop that’s one such aforementioned initiative. Excerpts:
Tell us what led to the foundation of Raaha...
We started Raaha because we saw a big gap between consumers and artisans. We strongly felt that the narrative of the artisan economy needed to be refreshed. With the increase in conscious consumerism, there has been a huge demand for ethically manufactured handmade products. When the pandemic started last year, I found myself giving digital training and assisting five weavers with sales. The intent was nothing more than to generate some revenue that can support weavers and sustain their livelihoods. We started pushing for sales via WhatsApp in the US where I am based and did sales worth 6,000 dollars in three weeks for the weavers. Shortly after this, I met Amrita and our common love for handmade products, gender equity and impact led to us launching Raaha.
How are the funds for the ration kits for artisans raised? Walk us through the process.
Since the lockdown we have supported 220 artisans and families through ration kits, what started as a small effort to support 30 families, led to us getting an overwhelming response from our friends, family and Raaha community. I think being a small team and our habit of being vocal and transparent on social media has helped, we continue to get donors from all over the globe to support our artisans. The basis of our fundraising efforts is transparency and trust. Each and every donor is given a detailed breakdown of who and where the funds have gone to along with bills and documentation. We partner with social enterprises to help us with on-ground operations and it's been amazing to see volunteers from the communities come forward and take the responsibility to collect and distribute ration and medicines. Working closely with artisans gives us a deep understanding of what it is the community needs.
Artisans communities from which places were benefitted?
Raaha is currently has a network of over 200 artisan and social enterprises as partners. We wanted to make sure the funds are reaching artisans that really need it and recognising the urgency of the ground reality we identified beneficiaries based on two priorities - women artisans that are breadwinners for their families and anyone who is taking care of sick family members and paying medical expenses, followed by the rest. Till now, we have reached artisans in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh ( handloom weavers) Gaya, Bihar ( Samoolam, crochet artisans), Durganpur, Rajasthan Women SHG group in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, Raghurajpur, Odisha( Pattachitra) and Women SHG group in Mumbai.
Tell us about the ongoing online shop for the purpose of the fundraiser ...
The Artisan Shop is a social impact initiative and movement of collective action to support the weavers and artisans by giving access to consumers globally to buy directly from the makers. It is in partnership with Karishma Shahani Khan, Founder Ka-sha and Loom and Hand. The artisan economy is severely impacted by the shutdowns as a result of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. They are not just dealing with disease, shortage of medication and oxygen and loss of life, but also with cancelled orders and economic insecurity. The donations and relief pouring in is significant but when asked weavers and artisans want sales, to grow their business, to be able to continue doing what they love. We recognised the need for a revenue channel that can use sales to sustain livelihoods during this time of distress. The Artisan Shop will assist in reducing stock and inventory, provide sales, give access to open economies where consumers are buying, keep home looms and workshops running, and connect consumers with weavers and artisans through transparent pricing.