We are working for the upliftment of the artisans in the state of Chhattisgarh with the twin objectives of the revival of traditional handicrafts of Bastar and enhancing the incomes of the artisans while contributing towards establishing an exploitation-free society for the artisans. We have assisted artisans on various levels. We work on the skill development of artisans, appropriate technological advancement of the crafts, design support to introduce new products based on the urban market demand and lastly on market linkage.
As a result of all these activities, the condition of the craftsperson has seen a lot of improvement, and the productivity and work efficiency of most of the craftspersons has increased. Many artisans from Bastar got international exposure and recognition for their craft.
After working with the communities on livelihood for 15 years, Saathi realised that intervention only in the livelihood - i.e. the economical aspects of people’s lives - is a short-term solution. To stop the exploitation of people in Bastar it is important they receive a quality education and become confident individuals in society, capable of earning a dignified livelihood through self-employment. Hence, we introduced multiple programs and projects to use education as a tool for community empowerment.
We established a middle school at Kumharpara in 2004 that focuses on Gandhi’s Nai Talim. Our pedagogy is rooted in local culture, geography and livelihood practices which don’t alienate children from their community. Apart from this we also work on strengthening the existing education system through many projects around Early Childhood Education, Right to Education, vocational education and others.
Most of the tourist locations are situated in the deep forests and rural areas of Bastar but the community living in these areas was completely alienated from this tourism activity. Tourism in Bastar was either monopolised by outsiders or by the government with little to no voice of the locals. Seeing this we understood it was important to promote community-owned tourism, which takes into account nature, the local livelihood, and people’s cultures, and brings a sense of ownership.
To reach our goals we’ve been training local communities in providing services to tourists like hospitality, cultural services, and homestays and managing and administrating all the tourism activities of the region. Apart from this, we have also developed a natural tourist site using local craft and resources, promoted craft-based tourism and much more.
Difficult geographic terrains and thick forests with Left-Wing Extremist (LWE) activities make most of the region inaccessible for public services delivery in Bastar. The inaccessibility to health care services and low socio-economic status of the community results in poor health indicators in the region. Saathi works on improving access to preventive and curative health care services and reducing the prevalence of malnutrition amongst women and children.
Apart from maternal health, we have undertaken various activities to improve healthcare in Bastar including strengthening routine immunization, integrated management of neonatal and childhood illness, promotion of OPDs, infant and young child feeding, behaviour change regarding good sanitation practices and dietary diversity.
We have constantly introduced programs in the sectors of health, education and employment because we consider them as basic rights of every individual. We also work for the protection of child rights, guided by the provisions of the Indian Constitution and laws framed in India.
We conduct workshops with school children to build awareness about their rights as minors and further train and equip them with tools to protect their rights as well. Apart from this, we are working on Community Forest Resource Rights and Policy advocacy for the artisan community.