LOLC Micro Credit Ltd (LOMC), the microfinance arm of the LOLC Group together with SANASA Development Bank (SDB), jointly sponsored a three-day workshop on Crafts, Textile and Livelihoods from the 20th – 23rd of August at the Centre for Banking Studies of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in Rajagiriya, ahead of the 5th Annual South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) Conference which concluded in Colombo last week.
SWAN was established to address specific concerns relating to women and gender through the disciplines of Arts and Literature, Crafts and Textile, Education, Environment, Health, Media, Microcredit and Peacemaking by way of a collaborative regional network established between nine South Asian countries – Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Myanmar and Afghanistan. “Gender Equity for Peace and Sustainable Development for the Women of South Asia” was this year’s theme for the 5th Annual Conference in Colombo.
The pre-conference workshop was aimed at sustainably developing craft production and marketing, through a “Train the Trainers” session, with the participation of the Crafts and Textile group and the Livelihood component of SWAN. 18 foreign delegates representing member countries together with 20 Sri Lankan delegates including a panel of eminent resource persons and experts attended the Workshop.
Mr. Buddhi Keerthisena, Chairman of National Craft Council inaugurated the Workshop; Professor Veena Sikri, Convener of the SWAN Conference and Workshop; Mrs. Samadani Kiriwandeniya, Chairperson of Sanasa Development Bank; Ms. Jaya Jaitly, Coordinator, Crafts and Textile for SWAN; Ms. Bhavna Gadre of Development Alternatives, New Delhi; Mrs. Achala Savyasaachi, Vice President, Sa-Dhan; Mrs. Suraiya Choudhary, Director of Design, Prokritee; Dr. Samudrika Wijayapala, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Textile and Clothing Technology, University of Moratuwa; Mrs. Charmerie Maelge, Resource Person, NCC; Mr. Dominic Sansoni, renowned Photographer and Managing Director of Barefoot Pvt Ltd ; Ms. Bibi Russell, internationally renowned fashion designer and former international model from Bangladesh were some of the distinguished guest-speakers who shared their expertise and best practices with the participants. In addition, the delegates presented country reports on the status of Crafts and Livelihoods relating to their countries.
The main objective of the workshop was to seek long term solutions aimed at developing craft and textile sector of South Asia, by promoting it as a sustainable livelihood option. Discussions also attempted to articulate concerns, identifying and assessing risks and opportunities, understanding value chain mechanisms, changes in global markets and economies, understanding marketing and branding strategies amongst other broad range of topics concerning the production and marketing of crafts.
“Preservation and sustainable development of indigenous arts and crafts for modern markets and promoting them as viable business enterprises were a key focus at this workshop. In the backdrop of the main regional SWAN conference which also focused on developing the crafts and textile industry of the South Asian region, we took this opportunity to create a common platform to bring together various stakeholders to share and discuss their unique concerns, experiences and best practices to develop the overall industry further.” explained, Mrs. Rohini Nanayakkara, Chairperson of LOLC and member of WCIC. Mrs. Nanayakkara was a key driving force behind organizing the pre-conference workshop together with key multi-stakeholders.
She further went on to explain; “As a form of art, craft and textile has been a medium through which artisans’ skills, cultural identities and expressions, indigenous craft methods and practices have been articulated and preserved for posterity. On the other hand and more importantly, as a trade, it has been a means for poverty alleviation for families and communities involved. It is also a space in which women’s participation in economic generating activities was tremendously encouraged.”
“Over the years, local partners – LOMC, SDB, NCC and WCIC – through their various initiatives and businesses have worked closely with a number of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, mostly women, whose livelihoods have been based on the production of indigenous handicrafts and textiles. Therefore, we understood the need of the time to bring their concerns to light and to seek long term solutions to address them effectively.” She said.
One of the main thematic areas discussed at the workshop was promotion of products as sustainable income-generating ventures to fulfill modern requirements.
“Empowering local entrepreneurs to enhance and sustainably develop their crafts through technical assistance, leadership training and capacity building, access to raw material, effective use of marketing and branding, modern tools and technology, access to local and foreign markets, sustainably generating income are vital for the preservation and promotion of this trade and the skills it involves. An important focus here was the holistic development of craft and textile as both an art and as enterprise, and to bring the concerns of this sector to an advocacy and policy engagement level and to encourage government and private sector participation further.” Mrs. Nanayakkara concluded.Other discussion areas focused on; creating natural dyes using plants, waste materials and minerals; recycling waste management; developing literacy and education; policy engagement; sustainable livelihood development and economic empowerment of women.Highlights from the Successful completion of Crafts, Textile and Livelihoods Workshop