Knitting Confidence and Positive Change: Himalayan Blooms’ Lasting Impact on Utatrakhand’s Champawat Womenfolk

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Generally, women are engaged in household tasks, and venturing into other work, especially non-governmental or non-private jobs, is challenging due to limited education and low pay. They need substantial support and a trusting environment to step out. Providing equitable opportunities and encouraging them at the village level is vital. Any efforts directed toward women in rural India are positive, regardless of the outcome at the initial stage. They need support and opportunities, and every step forward is a positive and much-needed one. Himalayan Blooms, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in the rural villages of Champawat in the Central Himalayas, Uttarakhand, was initiated by Pratibha Krishnaiah in 2015. The organisation’s primary focus is to provide alternative income opportunities for women, enabling them to become financially independent and augment their household earnings through their existing knitting, crochet, and tailoring skills. By empowering women and fostering community development, Himalayan Blooms aims to reduce the necessity for rural-to-urban migration in search of employment, thereby promoting the stability and growth of local communities.

Pratibha Krishnaiah, a software engineer based in Bangalore, spent eight years working for a multinational media conglomerate. Seeking a change and a deeper sense of purpose, she made a significant shift in her career path by joining the SBI’s Youth for India programme, which offered a rural fellowship opportunity. Her journey led her to the village of Khetikan in Champawat. 

Initially, Pratibha had ambitious plans for reforestation as her primary goal in Khetikan. However, her plans took an unexpected turn when she began engaging with the local women of the community. She discovered their remarkable knitting skills and their strong desire to find meaningful work. This encounter ignited a spark within her, leading to the creation of Himalayan Blooms, a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering women through knitting.

Before the inception of Himalayan Blooms, the local women in Khetikan were primarily engaged in traditional activities with limited income opportunities. The organisation sought to change this by providing sustainable knitting-based livelihoods. In doing so, they aimed not only to improve the economic status of these women but also to enhance their social standing within the community. The result was the creation of a thriving community enterprise that uplifted the lives of these women while fostering a sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency.

The serene and fulfilling village life of Khetikan captivated Pratibha, and despite her initial intentions to hand over the project after her fellowship ended, she decided to continue pursuing her newfound passion and commitment. With support pouring in from New Jersey, Himalayan Blooms started to take root, staying true to Pratibha’s promise of leaving a lasting impact on the community.

Before the inception of Himalayan Blooms, the local women in Khetikan were primarily engaged in traditional activities with limited income opportunities. The organisation sought to change this by providing sustainable knitting-based livelihoods. In doing so, they aimed not only to improve the economic status of these women but also to enhance their social standing within the community. The result was the creation of a thriving community enterprise that uplifted the lives of these women while fostering a sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency.

Embarking on this transformative odyssey was a formidable endeavour. Following her fellowship, Pratibha returned to the village, confronted with the task of instilling faith in the potential of Himalayan Blooms as a thriving venture. Immersed in their world, she established a modest shop, weaving modernity into their lives with laptops and spreadsheets. The integration of Excel for data management unveiled the realm of growth, gradually eroding scepticism and building trust.

The shift from doorstep wool distribution to a centralised shop evoked doubt. Yet, tenacity attracted devoted artisans, hungry for fresh designs and meaningful earnings. Her journey involved intimate home visits, unearthing dreams, and shaping a vision. Acknowledging their latent talents, Pratibha endeavoured to amplify them, merging heritage with contemporary techniques. This blueprint, rooted in sustainability, struck a chord with the women, resonating with dreams of personal growth and collective prosperity.

Himalayan Blooms’ essence lies in nurturing livelihoods through knitting, crochet, and tailoring prowess. The empowerment of women cultivates financial self-reliance, elevating household incomes. This empowerment converges with larger community aspirations, quelling the pull of rural-to-urban migration by presenting viable local livelihoods. Collaboratively, it unearthed knitting as a sturdy cornerstone, charting the organisation’s inception and its mission to empower village women as architects of their destinies.

In the organisation’s initial development stages, Pratibha harnessed about 12 women’s existing knitting and crochet skills, acquired during her Fellowship. These women produced experimental crafts, forming the foundation. As she established a workshop post-fellowship, commitment levels varied, emphasising the need for sustainable opportunities.

Early on, digital literacy was introduced. Within a month, two English-proficient staff were trained in Excel, streamlining data, pricing, and invoicing. This digital base streamlined operations, impacting pricing and online presence.

While women possessed knitting skills, she prioritised refining finishing techniques and inspiring creativity over structured training. This approach allowed for new designs and skill elevation. Some became trainers and designers, fuelling the NGO’s growth. While not all initial members stayed, the dedication and passion of those who did, shaped Himalayan Blooms into a thriving enterprise.

Beyond individual gains, Himalayan Blooms’ impact radiates through villages. Initially, discouraged women have turned into influential role models, encouraging wider participation. Craftwork benefits propel them into entrepreneurship and teaching roles, broadening their horizons. This enterprise curbs rural-urban migration, enhancing communities. Increased incomes lead to better living standards, improved education, and healthcare prospects. Himalayan Blooms’ triumph not only betters individual lives but also fuels village vitality and progress.

Himalayan Blooms enjoyed a demand-driven strategy to market craftworks. Orders were taken for handmade products and allocated to skilled artisans, ensuring fair compensation for their work. The initiative gained traction through media coverage, including a 2015 article spotlighting a software engineer’s transition to empower rural women. This garnered support, notably from a New Jersey resident. The focus was on real orders to build a sustainable business, tapping into artisans’ skills and support. This approach jump-started marketing and provided meaningful livelihoods through collaborative efforts.

Since its establishment in 2015, Himalayan Blooms has experienced impressive growth and positive change. Starting with a small cohort of 12 women, the organisation now spans 300 artisans across various Champawat centres, demonstrating the success of its sustainable livelihood approach.

The women’s financial accomplishments underline the efficacy of Himalayan Blooms’ model. Initial earnings of around ₹5,000 have soared to ₹45,000 during peak orders for some skilled artisans, inspiring others to shape their economic destinies.

This newfound financial autonomy has kindled pride and confidence, transforming women into key breadwinners and challenging gender norms. Instances of women purchasing land and husbands acknowledging their success indicate shifting dynamics and empowerment.

Beyond individual gains, Himalayan Blooms’ impact radiates through villages. Initially, discouraged women have turned into influential role models, encouraging wider participation. Craftwork benefits propel them into entrepreneurship and teaching roles, broadening their horizons. 

This enterprise curbs rural-urban migration, enhancing communities. Increased incomes lead to better living standards, improved education, and healthcare prospects. Himalayan Blooms’ triumph not only betters individual lives but also fuels village vitality and progress.

In essence, Himalayan Blooms’ journey signifies remarkable progress, financial success, confidence, and transformative effects. Empowering stories and positive community ripples emphasise the significance of sustainable livelihoods and holistic development.

Himalayan Blooms has established a meticulous stock management system for its craft inventory, assigning unique item numbers and recording comprehensive details on attached tags. Excel spreadsheets are used to maintain accurate records for tracking and easy access. Yet, the organisation’s commitment goes beyond documentation. It has a dedicated team of trainers focusing on enhancing women artisans’ proficiency. This training encompasses the use of accounting software like Tally and compliance with Goods and Services Tax (GST) regulations.

Key to this initiative is Manvendra, a devoted volunteer from the Keycode Foundation with educational project management experience. He has provided hands-on guidance for two years through in-person visits and virtual Soom sessions. Regular online interactions help artisans stay updated on Government of India mandates. Collaborating with Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) reinforces the organisation’s dedication to financial compliance and accuracy.

In essence, Himalayan Blooms’ stock management surpasses norms. Through trainers, modern tools, and proactive engagement, artisans gain skills to navigate financial complexities effectively.

Himalayan Blooms’ transformation received a substantial boost from the 2021 SBI Youth for India seed grant, Sahyog. Valued at ₹3,00,000, this grant arrived as the organisation emerged from pandemic challenges. Sahyog catalysed ambitious expansion, restoring confidence and enabling growth. The grant instilled hope and trust in Himalayan Blooms’ potential post-pandemic. Strengthened, the organisation focused on strategic initiatives, propelled by the Sahyog grant’s support.

Beyond a conventional enterprise, Himalayan Blooms aimed to empower local women artisans and build a self-sustaining community-driven venture. Sahyog played a key role in realising this vision, fostering growth in areas like marketing, inventory, and technology.

Central to the initiative was transparent empowerment. The Sahyog grant empowered artisans not just as skilled labour, but also as contributors. It facilitated multifaceted entrepreneurial growth, from digital tools to social media marketing. Sahyog profoundly impacted the Himalayan Blooms’ structure. With a community empowerment objective, the organisation transitioned to local management through the Himalayan Blooms Artisans Association, solidifying sustainability.

SBI Youth for India’s Sahyog catalysed Himalayan Blooms’ empowerment, transparency, and self-reliance. Beyond finances, the grant propelled active artisan-driven growth, reinforcing it as a social entrepreneurship success story.

Himalayan Blooms’ holistic empowerment not only betters lives and finances but reverberates positively, catalysing broader societal change. As women evolve into change agents, they underscore rural India’s livelihood projects’ value and potential. The organisation envisions a transformative path forward, centred on empowering women in Uttarakhand and beyond. Their primary focus is to amplify their existing achievements. Through the establishment of “Himalayan Blooms Artisans Group,” a for-profit venture, the organisation is committed to nurturing a generation of change-makers and inspirational rural women leaders.

Himalayan Blooms’ meticulously crafted products reach markets through a blend of channels including exhibitions and select eCommerce platforms, with an emerging focus on social media. Exhibitions spotlight the offerings to diverse audiences. The organisation’s site serves as a hub, while platforms like Amaliah and Okai feature their creations. Overseas strides have seen Himalayan Blooms export to the USA, Switzerland, and Japan, moving from modest orders to B2B transactions.

While global exploration occurs, the heart of Himalayan Blooms’ efforts lies in the domestic arena. Handcrafted goods’ ascent is aided by Indian entities like Fabindia, Jaipur, Kalara, and Lalta, fostering a burgeoning appreciation for such products nationwide.

The transformative effect of Himalayan Blooms’ empowerment initiatives on women artisans is evident. Increased confidence, self-esteem, and financial independence reflect their engagement. Breaking traditional norms, these initiatives nudge women towards entrepreneurship, shifting from homemakers to empowered providers.

The stark before-and-after shift is evident as women embrace roles as confident breadwinners, infusing families, and communities with positive change. Self-sustained income alters trajectories for these women and their children, extending beyond economics. The initiatives imbue rural women with agency, purpose, and pride, influencing present and future generations. Just as teaching to fish ensures sustenance, empowering women cultivates equitable, promising futures.

Himalayan Blooms’ holistic empowerment not only betters lives and finances but reverberates positively, catalysing broader societal change. As women evolve into change agents, they underscore rural India’s livelihood projects’ value and potential. The organisation envisions a transformative path forward, centred on empowering women in Uttarakhand and beyond. Their primary focus is to amplify their existing achievements. Through the establishment of “Himalayan Blooms Artisans Group,” a for-profit venture, the organisation is committed to nurturing a generation of change-makers and inspirational rural women leaders.

Over the next five years, their roadmap revolves around fostering self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship within the local community. The goal is to equip women with skills, knowledge, and resources, enabling them to confidently lead their enterprises. Himalayan Blooms aspires to see these women reach unprecedented heights, sparking transformation that reverberates through families and communities.

The NGO’s long-term goal is to concentrate on empowering and strengthening Uttarakhand’s women artisans. They want to prioritise depth over breadth, maximising resources for direct impact, and ensuring optimal support for the women and their thriving prospects.

Himalayan Blooms’ strategy centres on holistic development, boosting women’s confidence, skills, and economic ownership. While immediate plans might not include more trades, they remain adaptable to artisans’ evolving needs. As they nurture growth, the organisation continues to serve as a beacon of hope and empowerment, catalysing positive change in rural enterprise empowerment in India and beyond.

Source:
Himalayan Blooms