The Okhamandal region in Gujarat is a drought prone area. With
an average annual rainfall of 8-10 inches, the region is declared
a drought zone every third year. With 70% of the village population
dependent on agriculture, it becomes imperative that an alternate
source of livelihood be promoted to reduce the dependence on agriculture.
Women of Okhamandal are endowed with the talent and traditional
skills to make exquisite handicrafts in the typical Okhamandal
style. The custom of producing traditional handicrafts for ceremonial
functions is widely prevalent amongst the tribes like the Ahirs,
the Rabari, the Charan, and communities like the Lohana and the
Mirror work, patchwork and embroidery are all a vibrant expression
of their way of life, their rituals and their legends.
Handicrafts were identified as a promising means of generating
livelihood for hundreds of women in the area.
Tata Chemicals Society for Rural
Development (TCSRD) plays a pioneering role in promoting this
art. Self Help Groups (SHGs) have been formed in the villages of
Okhamandal and the members of these groups are involved in handicrafts
production. At present, 450 rural women are benefiting from this
programme. They earn an average monthly income of Rs 500- 2500.
The handicrafts are promoted under the brand name ‘Okhai’.
The handicrafts project has made a fundamental difference to the
lives of rural women. It not only helps the women become wage earners,
but also spreads awareness about the traditional crafts of the region,
thus helping us preserve a rich part of our national cultural heritage
for generations to come.