Sasha is a network of over 150 producer groups involving about 7000 artisans and marginal producers - 80% of them women. It deals with a wide cross-section of handcrafted products, gourmet spices, teas and body care products.
In its journey of 25 years now, it has organised and promoted the informal sector of artisans in the global market place. The Sasha network is a live example of collective capabilities where survival efforts of scattered groups and communities have transformed into an alternative business model.
Fair trade has played the catalytic role: fair trade principles, practices and buyer networks opened the doors of perception, change, and market opportunities. Artisans and producers are more confident and have started moving from isolation to dependence to 'interdependence'.
Sasha is strategically focusing on national market development that will promote fair trade products and practices and aims to move up from the niche market to a sizeable market share of functional and aesthetic craft products.
To match up the changing market dynamics and increased competition from other 'southern' countries, Sasha actively engages in enterprise development initiatives with producers for business
Some of Sasha's values and targets are:
G.P. Village Industries, Bankura
G.P. Village Industries is a part of the larger Gandhi Vichar Parishad in Bankura, West Bengal, which is about 6 hours away from Howrah by train. This is a very old town with a predominance of terracotta work. GVP is a Gandhian organisation, involved in rural development work in the surrounding villages. In 1984, they started working with dhokara craftsmen in a nearby village. Sasha was involved in the marketing of industrial gloves for them at this time and they started selling dhokara around 1987.
The dhokara craftsmen were nomads from Madhya Pradesh, who came and settled here. They made figurines of gods, rice measures, and animals and sold them locally. A government scheme made a small colony for these people - some open sheds and houses ranged around them. Today about 35 families live and work here. Dhokara is an ancient craft of lost-wax casting of non-ferrous metals. Work and cooking go on together in the same sheds as much of the process of dhokara involves fire. Dirt or mud is a part of life here and kids play happily with burnt and unburnt clay and become a part of the creative process right from the day they are born.
The craftsmen are always nomadic and one of the major buyers was tribal from central and east India. So they have always lived in small communities and shared workplaces. Since they were nomads, they have a strong sense of their own identity as craftsmen, distinct from the other people of the surrounding villages. The craft itself is very difficult, laborious and tricky and is not easily learnt. This further bonds the community together and keeps it separate from agricultural and other working people. Outsiders are also wary of them, as they see them as feckless (no ties of property, no aspirations for upward mobility, disregard for middle class virtues like thrift and saving for a rainy day and a semi tribal life).
provides them with financial and infrastructural assistance, but does not actively
market their goods. Sasha and some government agencies are their main buyers.
G.P. undertakes community development work on behalf of Sahay, a Kolkata-based
organisation. Focus is on children - health, nutrition and education. An offshoot
of this is community development and women's groups.
Saathi was set up by three ceramics professionals Bhupesh , Bhupendra and Harilal in 1989 with the twin objectives of revival of traditional crafts of Bastar, and income generation for artisans on a sustainable basis.
Initially Saathi started working with 30 potters at Kumharpara. During this time period, Saathi developed a strong rapport with the community and also started working in areas such as awareness generation, health, education, settling disputes, etc.
Slowly they started working with other craftspeople in the region and their scope extended to bell metal, iron craft, wood, bamboo and textiles in a 114 villages with 1400 artisans.
They have received marketing
and financial support from various NGOs as well as technical support from design
and technical institutions. Saathi believes in:
Future plans of Saathi include:
In 1998, Sasha received a large order for stuffed toy hangings and the groups, which normally did this work, could not handle the work. Since the process of making these was simple and could be learnt quickly, several new groups sprang up to take care of the excess orders. Rita lived in Baruipur in South 24 Paragnas and the surrounding areas are quite backward and poor due to the not very favorable agricultural situation. She felt that this would be an ideal way for some of the women here to earn some extra money.
Along with Sika Das, the unit was set up in Amarkatha village, Balakhali at Sika's residence. They learnt the skills from a group called Fancy Dolls in Calcutta. The fabric and other raw material is bought from Calcutta by Mr Paik and stored in Rita's house. The drawing of the patterns is done here. Cutting and basic machine stitching happens in Sika's house. The sewing machine sits in an open shed outside the house. The stuffing and finishing work is then distributed both in Baruipur and in Amarkatha.
At present they have a large order for
wire dolls, which they specialize and excel in. Mr Paik makes the basic copper
wire structure. This is wound round with wool. The head is made with cloth. And
tiny clothes are added on. Except for the hair, nothing is stitched. Instead,
rubber-based materials are used. The making of each doll is laborious and requires
a lot of patience. The faces are hand drawn later, all together. 25 women belong
to this group and mostly take work home to do in their spare time, in between
housework, looking after children, poultry, cows and goats.