This Raksha Bandhan Go Vocal for Local with Okhai
Sitting on the ground, Himaben carefully puts beads through the thread to make a designer rakhi. 10 other women artisans accompany Himaben in making rakhis as KonHalaveLimbadi Ne KonJulavePipali, a Gujarati folklore plays softly in the background.
“For the last few years we have been engaged with Okhai. I had never imagined that my craft will have this much value. Seeing a rakhi made by me and other artisans like me being sold across India makes me so proud,” Himaben told us beaming with pride.
Okhai is driven by many such skillful and dedicated rural women artisans. It has empowered 27,830 rural artisans by connecting them to pan-India customers through the Okhai marketplace. Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development is providing entrepreneurial training to women members of self-help groups (SHGs). It has helped form six clusters / group enterprises in Mithapur, where products in bandhani (tie-and-dye), rexine and leather, bead work, jute, block print and coconut fibre are made. These are sold through Okhai and two retail outlets. For Raksha Bandhan, artisans of Okhai from across India are being engaged in making of rakhis and gifts. Artisans who worked on Bead Rakhishail from the bead cluster. They have been trained to use glass beads instead of plastic ones to make this process sustainable. Keeping Raksha Bandhan in focus, artisans are designing products that can be gifted by brothers and sisters. Each of these items has been handcrafted and is unique.
Women artisans at Okhai have handcrafted exquisite rakhis which are rarely available in the wholesale markets. Apart from Rakhis, there is an array of rakhi gifts to choose from like Hand Embroidered Travel pouches, GendaPhool Wood Pendant Lamp, Gratitude Hampers, and many more. Okhai products use pure cotton, mirror work, patchwork, and embroidery as a vibrant expression of the rural way of life, their rituals, and their legends, pairing traditional art with contemporary designs and modern processes.
Okhai as a brand aims to empower rural and semi-urban women in up-skilling, marketing, and promoting traditional handicraft techniques that have been forgotten with time. Artisans are earning a monthly income of Rs 500 to Rs 16,000 depending on the hours they work at home or the center, their skill level, and design. The idea is to ensure that the women can work at their pace and in their homes while managing their households. As women get work at their doorstep, they are in a better position to balance their family, social and work life. They can devote time to their household chores as well as take care of the family while working from the home.
Special training (using technology) on costs, designs, and visual merchandising coupled with factory visits are provided on an ongoing basis to keep the women in touch with the latest trends, colors, and fashions, with improved skills and enhanced capabilities. Okhai has helped the rural women of Okhamandal to become financially stable and self-sustainable. They are now able to send their daughters to school and in many cases have become the primary bread earners of their household. Okhai strives to bring the traditions of India to customers all around the world with its unique creations and products. It not only helps its artisans become wage earners but also spreads awareness about the traditional crafts of the region, thus helping preserve a rich part of India’s national cultural heritage.