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May 28, 2007

"A society for crafts and craftspeople"

Who knew that combing through crumbling dusty files that seem to have been untouched for years could be so beneficial or enlightening? This week I have managed to make the most of my time in Delhi, having left the troubles of the Punjab. Working with Dastkar, a society devoted to crafts and craftspeople, has provided a helpful transition into the NGO (non-governmental organization) sector. Their focus is “linking skills and markets, bringing cultures, communities and gender, creating earning and empowerment.” I rather like my new desk job. I am free to follow whichever leads or whims I am curious about, and have been taking meticulous notes regarding what I see as the development of a well-run, professional, and progressive organization. Initially I felt very silly walking into the office with my little two-page proposal as if it were some sort of badge of achievement. I can laugh now as I have learned so much, even in just one week. Microfinance, women’s empowerment, organizing the informal economy, and even the education of girls are not progressive ideas here. Dastkar has been working with them for 25 years as have many organizations they work with such as SEWA.

For the past few days I have been pouring over Dastkar’s files regarding SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association). The close relationship that developed between Dastkar and various sub-groups within the SEWA organization has provided me with insight into how NGO’s function not as separate entities, but also specialized units which may help and depend on one another. Furthermore, I have been privy to the internal miscommunications that occasionally arise between groups. The everyday focus of the Dastkar is pretty task-oriented so my goal is to try to find out how these operations fit into the structure and long-term goals of the organization.

I have made a couple different side trips this week. One to Dilli Haat, a space where craftspeople may sell their wares, as well as another to the local Crafts Museum, where I spent a few hours checking out old texts.

As of now I am in the process of planning field visits to Dastkar groups, specifically one located on the Ranthambhore Reserve in Rajastan. To my amazement the Dastkar group shop where local women vend their wares is even noted in my Lonely Planet! Apparently when the reserve was originally founded local peoples who were dependent upon the land for subsistence were suddenly faced with a resource crisis. Dastkar has helped ease this unfortunate consequence of land preservation by converting many individuals who were dependent on inconsistent agricultural production for economic support to craft production. The project has met with considerable success and was even featured on the BBC in 2002.

In other news I have been gifted a magic wireless internet card that works everywhere in India. !!!. Look forward to more regular updates.

Posted by tvanderm at May 28, 2007 03:53 AM


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