Aarambh – crafting a new beginning for artisan communities

The word ‘aarambh’ takes its roots in Sanskrit and means inception, or a new beginning. The word is apt to highlight the beginning of the Aarambh program, an initiative from Women on Wings’ business partner GoCoop, in association with Women on Wings. Aarambh aims to build sustainable livelihoods through enabling and empowering 40 cluster-based weaver entrepreneurs and co-operatives from four handloom clusters of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka with capacity building and market linkage.

Preparing artisans for post COVID-19
Aarambh brings the promise of positivity and hope to artisans and weavers who have been impacted largely by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first lockdown, in Summer 2020, all physical sales channels were closed, and many artisans and weavers earned hardly any income. Online sales did happen, but artisans and weavers were unable to make new products, since raw materials were unavailable. Being ‘non-essentials’, yarns and fabrics were not allowed to be transported during the first lockdown. Soon after that first lockdown, Women on Wings’ business partner GoCoop started the ‘silence of the looms’ initiative to prepare artisans and weavers for a post COVID-19 era.

Providing capacity building and markets
Through a donation specifically received for this initiative, Women on Wings enabled GoCoop to assess many weaver entrepreneurs over the past months. GoCoop has selected 40 cluster-based weaver entrepreneurs and co-operatives that will be provided market linkages for sustainable livelihoods through capacity building efforts. Some of the selected co-operatives are from Pedana, a village in Andhra Pradesh. Seemingly nondescript at the first glance, the village is in fact the manufacturing hub of the renowned block printed Kalamkari fabric. In 2013, Pedana and its neighboring villages of Machilipatnam, Polavaram and Kappaladoddi, won the geographical indication tag to produce Machilipatnam Kalamkari, which involves carving out intricate designs on wooden blocks, and using these to print. Pedana also has a strong co-operative culture. Most of these co-operatives specialize in handlooms and weave sarees of fine cotton. Many of the village people are involved and find an income through the co-operatives.

Image @GoCoop: artisan creating the Machilipatnam Kalamkari in Pedana