In the early 70s, job scarcity in the villages of Rajasthan forced many impoverished individuals and families to migrate to cities. When the youth fled, they took with them the dying hopes of their parents—who were weavers, blacksmiths, potters, builders, carpenters, farmers—to pass on skills and traditions to the next generation. They left behind not only their families but also the knowledge their elders had collected over the generations in order to adapt to local conditions.
Since 1975, more than 1,850 rural women have trained and worked as Barefoot artisans and weavers. They have made a living by producing rural handicrafts. All payments are made using cheques so that community members are encouraged to read and write, as well as learn how to manage banks accounts.
The Barefoot College began promoting rural craft as a way to address these problems of under-employment. Assistance in improving designs and techniques, creation of marketing outlets, and access to credit have helped to restore and create new income opportunities for craftsmen and women. Training and materials provided by the College have also enabled women to work from home and helped them generate income from craft.
These rural artisans produce clothing and accessories, decorative home furnishings, furniture, rugs, textiles, handmade paper products, puppets, educational toys, metalwork and leather goods. The crafts are sold through retail shops and exhibitions held in the metropolitan cities of India, Europe, USA and Canada.
Friends of Tilonia (FOT) is working with the College to develop direct sales and marketing channels for these crafts in the United States. To support this effort, FOT has developed an online store: www.tilonia.com, which markets to individuals, wholesalers and distributors on behalf of Barefoot College.