New Delhi, January 19, 2021: Working to help address the most pressing societal issues in the communities it serves around the world, American Express announced its association with Dastkar to support Indian craftswomen impacted severely due to the pandemic. In the past year, Indian crafts sector, especially self-employed women, have faced a twin blow of halt in economic activity and lack of access to formal financial credit. The grant of Rs 1 Crore is intended to help build financial resilience among women-led small businesses and catalyse a noticeable change in the lives of artisans. American Express shared the first cohort of Indian women artisans who were awarded funding through this association.
Speaking about the initiative, Manoj Adlakha, SVP and CEO, American Express Banking Corp. India said, “At American Express, we are committed to providing powerful backing and support to help people thrive. With a global footprint and diverse customer base, we believe we have a responsibility to support the communities in which our customers and colleagues live, work and care about. Women entrepreneurs and innovators play an especially crucial role in our communities. Through our funding to Dastkar, we will support the sustenance of India’s craft community in the wake of the pandemic. We are proud to contribute in mitigating the impact and conserving the country’s diverse cultural heritage in the form of regional arts and crafts.”
Padma Shri Laila Tyabji, Founder Member and Chairperson – Dastkar said, “Locked out of earnings and employment, these craftswomen require assistance – both financial and marketing. The corporate sector has a crucial role to play here. We thank American Express for recognising the urgency of the situation and providing much-needed capital to help our women artisans recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic and rebuild their livelihood.”
Additionally, American Express is also investing in marketing support and visibility for the artists. The company has commissioned a limited series of podcasts in association with a leading radio channel. It will also support the program on its social media platforms, thereby increasing the reach and impact of the association.
This grant to Dastkar’s Artisan Support Fund will provide financial assistance for wages and raw materials along with marketing assistance to craftswomen involved in varied arts and crafts, including mirror-work embroiderers, weavers, basket makers, fibre craft artisans, block printers, recycled jewellery and patchwork craftswomen, knitters, spinners, and soap makers. The first cohort announced covers craftswomen from Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Odisha, Jharkhand, Manipur, Telangana and Bihar.
The funding, some of which has reached the grantees, has already started to enable their recovery. Hundreds of weavers were affected due to COVID-19 in Assam, due to sudden closure of marketplaces, and subsequent decrease in cash flow. The funds allocated by Dastkar’s Artisan Support Fund were used to procure cotton yarn and pay wages of the women weavers. “The weavers’ condition has improved as they have achieved a sense of self-reliance and we hope to include more women into the project,” says Rakhee Choudhary, Founder & CEO of Mulberry. Similarly, funds disbursed to Naie Kiran in Kashmir were used to pay unpaid wages and dues and procure raw materials from various regions. Another recipient of funding through this grant, Anshul, Product Developer and Design Trainer at Krishna Wool in Himachal Pradesh said, “We are thankful to the organizations for paying heed to our trials and tribulations during COVID-19. The funds have provided us with some security which further encouraged us to keep moving on.”
American Express has participated in several community initiatives in India encompassing volunteerism, digital literacy, architectural restoration, environment and education.