More than 22,000 women in India’s rugged Kutch region in the state of Gujarat have seen their lives transformed thanks to Chanda Shroff who revived the exquisite traditional hand embroidery to create a sustainable income for local women.
Living under the stars and roaming the desert, the Kutchi women countered the harshness of their lives with vibrantly coloured embroidery. The tradition dates back several thousand years, but when Chanda Shroff visited the drought-stricken region in 1969, she found families who had been forced to sell their heirloom textiles, effectively selling the story of their lives. Shroff formed an NGO, Shrujan, to help families create new embroideries and earn much needed income. Today, Shroff’s project is regarded as one of the most successful models of social entrepreneurship in her country.
I was deeply shaken by the plight of the Kutchi people and especially the women.
Her Design Centre on Wheels showcased a collection of embroidery panels in remote villages, with the increased publicity from the outreach generating higher sales and, ultimately, increased income for the craftswomen. More recently, in January 2016, the Shrujan-sponsored Living and Learning Design Centre, a textile museum and craft training centre, opened, involving Shroff, as well as her son and daughter, who represent the younger generation carrying on her work to save the 16 distinctive styles of embroidery. Chanda Shroff died in August 2016, but in the future, the centre will extend beyond the region and provide a one-stop destination for craft-lovers and a crafts school equipped with working studios for all 22 of Kutch’s crafts.
The number of women from some 120 villages who have benefited from Shrujan’s work
3,000 to 3,500
Craftswomen who work with the Shrujan trust every year
Number of hand-embroidered display panels in the first phase of the project