Beyond Money
Weaving a Better Life
When Vijaya Switha graduated from IRMA (Institute for Rural Management, Anand), she had the experience of working with craftspersons. The challenges they faced to produce and market led her to the one question, “What do rural enterprises in India need the most?” The answer was development of skills, enhancement of knowledge and market access. Vijaya found her cause—working with the artisan rather than engaging with the art. 
 
Chitrika Foundation was established in 2005 to revamp weaver producer enterprises into business enterprises. It provides turnkey solutions and assistance to the handloom weaving sector, India’s second largest employer after agriculture. Chitrika works directly with weavers to establish weaver-owned, weaver-managed and self-sustained production companies under the progressive and pro-community APMACS Act, 1995 (Andhra Pradesh Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies Act, 1995). 
 
In Chitrika’s model, a majority stake in the production company is held by weavers’ enterprises and the remainder by other stakeholders. Each weaver’s enterprise has its own support units for raw materials, dyeing, printing and garmenting.
 
Production companies empower weavers to procure finance, negotiate for raw materials, innovate designs, ensure a fair price for the product and undertake marketing. The centralised pre-loom, on-loom and post-loom model is a first-of-its-kind in India and offers increased income to the weaver. Currently, Chitrika works with two production companies in Srikakulam and East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh. Vamshadhara Weavers’ Producing Company, in Punduru (Srikakulam), has 500 members. It started as four cooperative societies that merged in 2014. Srikakulam is well-known for khadi and traditional designs. 
 
Godavari Women Weaver’s Services Producer Company, formed in 2014 in Mandapeta, in collaboration with ALC-India, is India’s first women weavers’ producing company with 247 members. They aim to reach 3,000 women weavers, the mainstay of the weaving industry in East Godavari, since men have moved away to nearby towns for employment. The centralised process has given weavers the advantage of training programmes and access to buyers’ feedback leading to design innovations with inputs from a design consultant. Members have looms at home and weaving is a family activity. On an average, three members of a family are involved in the various weaving processes. Each loom changes designs every year. Dyeing is now a mechanised process. The weavers are introduced to technology in marketing, production and inventory management. 
 
The producer companies are now in charge of their marketing efforts. Apart from handloom exhibitions all over India, the fabrics are retailed through Fabindia and Jaypore. A gratifying development is that 10 young, educated weavers are now involved in the production companies. 
 
Recent milestones for Chitrika’s efforts have been a 100% increase in incomes at Vamshadhara Weavers’ Producing Company and 100% change in product portfolio in these producing companies in the past five years. Chitrika is a lean organisation with 12 people. They recently received a grant from Ford Foundation. Other sources of income are the consultancy projects they undertake in artisan support organisations. Some funding partners include the Government of India, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Rang De, Friends of Women’s World Banking, Ratan Tata Trust and Access Livelihoods Consulting India Public Ltd.
 
As Gandhiji wrote in Young India in 1920, “I feel convinced that the revival of hand-spinning and hand-weaving will make the largest contribution to the economic and the moral regeneration of India. The millions must have a simple industry to supplement agriculture. Spinning was a cottage industry years ago, and if the millions are to be saved from starvation, they must be enabled to reintroduce spinning in their homes and every village must repossess its own weaver.”
 
Nearly a century later, Chitrika’s work with the weavers of Andhra Pradesh shows Gandhiji’s words coming to fruition, in no small measure. All donations to Chitrika are exempt from income-tax under Section 80G.
 
Chitrika
Second Floor, 17-1-383/47, 
4th Cross Road, 
Vinay Nagar Colony, 
Saidabad, Hyderabad, 
Telangana 500 059. 

 

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Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living
Brahmavidya is the science of life which teaches human beings the spiritual laws of life without bringing religion into the picture. Brahmavidya Sadhak Sangh (BSS) is a charitable trust; all teachers and volunteers work in spirit of service, without any remuneration, to spread this unique knowledge. At present, BSS is conducting Brahmavidya classes in Marathi, Hindi, English and Gujarati, at over 250 centres in Mumbai, Pune and Ratnagiri. Over 100,000 students have benefited from Brahmavidya teachings in the past decade.
 
BSS was founded in 1997. Jayant Divekar, the founder and chief trustee of BSS, studied under the tutorship of Guru Jyotirmayanda who had started teaching Brahmavidya in Mumbai in the late-1970s. Late Jayant Divekar was totally convinced about the efficacy of Brahmavidya teachings in removing the root cause of illness and promoting physical and mental health. He also considered this a supreme technique for spiritual growth. This led to an intense desire on his part to share the teachings with aspirants to the knowledge. He translated the entire course literature (of 1,500 pages) from English into Marathi. The mission of BSS is to promote and to teach the unique system of Brahmavidya. 
 
Brahmavidya postulates that all human beings are potentially divine. Hence, they have within themselves the power to overcome their difficulties and problems. Daily practise of the technique for 40 minutes gives excellent results. People enjoy better physical and mental health. They lead a happier and more successful life at home and at work.
 
Brahmavidya is an ancient system of yoga and philosophy, teaching spiritual breathing exercises and meditation. “Our fitness is dependent on many factors, but it is vitally dependent on our breath. You will be surprised to know that an average person uses only 10% of his lungs capacity. Though we are breathing right from our birth, nobody has ever taught us the right way of breathing. We don’t even consider that it is necessary to train ourselves to breathe correctly since we breathe without any effort or cost,” points out Swati Jog, trustee of BSS. Simple but effective spiritual breathing exercises taught in Brahmavidya improve our lung capacity and purify our body. 
 
The basic course comprises pranayam and eight spiritual breathing exercises that are to be practised for at least 20 minutes every morning and simple meditation techniques that are practised every night for 20 minutes. It also includes philosophical topics explaining the fundamental principles of life.
 
These methods of spiritual breathing exercises and meditation have been found useful for getting rid of asthma and other breathing problems, high blood pressure, spondylitis, backache, joint pain, insomnia, depression and many other ailments.
Anyone above 18 years of age can join the basic course of 22 weeks; the classes are conducted once a week for one and half hours. There is a small donation for each course. These courses are held in October-November and April-May periods in Mumbai. The courses for adults are in English, Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati at more than 200 centres in Mumbai, Pune, Ratnagiri, Satara, Jalgaon and other cities in Maharashtra. Children’s courses are conducted separately in Marathi and English. 
 
Brahmavidya is useful to the young and the old. One successful student, Vinayak Tare, said “I am young! More young! I am happy! I am a youngster of 74 years. For 60 years of my life, I used to teach children langdi and kho-kho and it was this physical exercise and their innocent company kept me young.” Aaarti Vibhute said, after the course, “Brahmavidya not only gave me fitness, but totally changed my perspective towards life.”
 
 
Donations to BSS are exempt under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act.
 
Brahmavidya Sadhak Sangh
2nd Floor, Laxmi Keshav Building,
Gokhale Road, Naupada,
Thane (West) – 400601, Maharashtra
Telephone: 91-22-2533 9977
Fax: +91-22-2534 7788

 

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COMMENTS

S A Narayan

9 months ago

These are the very things which are taught by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and his trained teachers in Inner Engineering and the lives of regular Ishayoga meditators has been transformed so much!

NGO’s Campaign to Promote Breast-feeding Shows Results
In the 1970s and 1980s, India was witnessing a decline in breastfeeding of infants. Increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, along with a global campaign by large commercial enterprises to encourage switch over to bottle-feeding as a more convenient and healthy option, were at the root of this change. However, research has shown otherwise. Hence, countering the large marketing and advertising budgets of commercial entities promoting bottle-feeding became a stupendous task. This was the rationale for Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI).
 
BPNI was born as a recommendation of the workshop on “Recent Advances in Human Lactation and Breastfeeding Management at Wardha, India” organised by ACASH (Association for Consumers Action on Safety and Health), FOGSI (Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of India) and IAP ([Indian Academy of Pediatrics), in 1991. Over the past 25 years, the impact of this organisation, and its relentless advocacy, is beginning to yield results. There is now widespread awareness in India about the fact that breastfeeding is a healthier and better choice for all babies. 
 
An achievement for BPNI was the enactment of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 1992 and Amendment Act 2003 (IMS Act). Arjun Singh, late human resources development minister, had said in this context: “Inappropriate feeding practices lead to infant malnutrition, morbidity and mortality in our children. Promotion of infant milk substitutes and related products like feeding bottles and teats do constitute a health hazard. Promotion of infant milk substitutes and related products has been more extensive and pervasive than the dissemination of information concerning the advantages of mother’s milk and breastfeeding and contributes to decline in breastfeeding.”
 
Several non-government organisations (NGOs) and doctors had been conducting training and awareness sessions, since 1981, to ensure that breastfeeding remains the first and best choice. In 1991, a training of trainers (ToT) programme was organised. It was during this TOT that BPNI was born. Many participants became BPNI’s founders and co-founders. Dr Arun Gupta, central coordinator of BPNI, recalls, “Out of the group, four members were active and enthusiastic supporters of the cause. These were: Dr RK Anand, Dr NB Kumta, Dr Tarsem Jindal and I. We pooled Rs1,000 each to start BPNI which was legally registered in July 1992.”
 
Protecting breastfeeding from commercial actors is BPNI’s forte. It has no hesitation in taking on powerful multinationals that are at the forefront of high-powered campaigns to hard-sell instant formulas and powder milk to new mothers.
 
Challenging their might is not for the fainthearted. BPNI is continuously monitoring what these baby food companies are doing and reports to media and government. It shares these with other professional agencies to let them know what they are doing. “Very recently, we have come up with a phone app that can be used by people to detect these promotional tactics of companies and report to BPNI. It is named ‘Stanpan Suraksha’ on Google Play and IOS,” a proud Dr Gupta pointed out.
 
When asked about the challenges faced by BPNI, Dr Gupta said, “Lack of funds and sustainability are the biggest challenges. Also, BPNI does not have an office of its own and monthly rental is quite a major cost to it. BPNI has been relying on donors and the government; it does not take money from commercial sources. This is our ethical policy. We have not gone to individuals. If someone out there could donate a space of 2,000sq ft in Delhi, it could be a huge help for us, and if individuals help us with recurrent donations to fight for this social cause, it would probably sustain BPNI.” BPNI has been dependent mainly on international funding agencies and United Nations organisations. Its conventional donors are governments of Sweden and Norway.
 
BPNI is registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act and also under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. Donations to BPNI are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act, 1961.
 
Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI)
BP-33, Pitampura, 
New Delhi-110034
Tel: +91-11-42683059, 27343608,
Fax: +91-11-27343606
Website: www.bpni.org

 

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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

9 months ago

I have great admiration for this organization that took on this daunting task and made a success of it.
I recently came across one down side of this practice. Along with an NGO I was trying to study the reasons for malnutrition in children under 2yrs. What we found was that the mothers would exclusively breast feed until the child was almost 18 months. Invariably the children would be in Grade 1 malnutrition range. We repeatedly advised the mothers to supplement breast feeding from 6 months onward with soft foods like rice, dal, fruits, etc. But the grandmothers declined saying that they had grown up the same way and there was no need to adopt new fangled things. Our pointing out the stunting which results from this practice made no difference.
I would request this organization to include advice re supplementation of breast feeding to prevent malnutrition.

Gamal Nasser

9 months ago

My attempts to subscribe to your magazene repeatedly failed after entering debit card details , can you check it , or else please publish your magazene in Amazon or Google books.

Arun Gupta

10 months ago

Thanks for this wonderful story

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