Producers | NEED

Who makes our stuff?

Who makes our stuff?

Handmade Pride

NEED, India

Need logo
Shakti is NEED’s (Network of Economic and Entrepreneurial Development) product label and means ‘inner strength’. It is the name given to a unique collection of products, handcrafted by small groups of women artisans and tailors in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Northern India.

The specialism in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, is beautiful Chikan craft embroidery and they embroider scarves, tops and dresses for lovethatstuff. In Lucknow they also make a wide variety of jute products, including jute bags.

NEED also supports groups in Bihar, including a village in Muzzafarpur where shells are collected from the river bed for jewellery and button making.

According to recent World Bank estimates, one tenth of the world’s poor live in Uttar Pradesh.
And despite a narrowing of the gender gap in India’s so-called ‘metro-cities’, there is still great inequality. Around 80% of women are illiterate and have no access to skills training, especially in rural areas. Bihar is India’s poorest state, with 85% of the population living in villages, where poverty is severe.

Through NEED programmes, women from the poorest villages can learn new skills, develop their entrepreneurial skills and work collectively to earn money for themselves and their families. NEED helps women to set up their own small businesses and helps them form savings groups so that they can become independent.

Over 600 small producer groups have been formed. NEED is working to make sure that they receive a fair price for their work. Fair trade with international markets plays a vital role in helping these groups survive and flourish.

Barbara Wilson, lovethatstuff director, visits NEED

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• Local street kids in Lucknow
My time at NEED was an inspiring one. Having travelled 1,000 miles by train from Andra Pradesh, I was shocked by how much poorer the north looked than the centre. Indeed, 10% of the world's poor live in this region.

Ostensibly, I went to Lucknow to develop some new products which I hope will sell well in England and to see how the women's groups worked but I learned so much more than this.

NEED has supported over 100,000 people in Uttar Pradesh in a great variety of ways and visiting some of the villages was the most enjoyable part of my stay. First, we visited Dasdoi village and met a group of around 15 women who had successfully set up and were administering a self-financing group.
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• Bullock cart with heavy load, Lucknow
Practically, this meant that they were able to borrow money for mainly agricultural projects and Ghita told us about her expanding flower growing business.

By selling in the local market directly, these women were able to avoid paying most of their profit to a middle man, which was what had happened previously.

This group had drawn up their own set of rules and it was wonderful to see how clear they were about their criteria and how confident they were about describing their projects, their successes and plans for the future.
By selling in the local market directly, these women were able to avoid paying most of their profit to a middle man…
Barbara Wilson
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• Embroidering scarves in the main need workshop
NEED had also supported this village in a self-build school project and I particularly liked the way one of the children was leading the 'elephant song' and all the rest of the class were doing the actions.

They were also managing to keep quite a good size class of teenagers here, which was encouraging.

In Bigahur village we went to the home of Tara Wati and Amrit Lal, producers of Dupatta, or large scarf, and it was reassuring to see that although the husband, Amrit, was busy working on the loom, his wife Tara was the power behind the business.

When I asked about the advantages of fair trade to them, one of the main benefits was flexible working, meaning they could do a few hours here and there at home when convenient and also fit agricultural labouring in around the loom.

The difference in income level was excellent - a rise of over three-fold and with the extra income they were going to 'make the house pukka, keep their three children in school and use it for the household budget.’
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• Barbara with some of the NEED team
The third village, Pathan Khera, again, showed the resourcefulness and power of women. Led by Kesana who went to Lucknow to pick up orders and then distributed them around her village, this group had, again, cut out the traditional middle man who used to take an extremely large cut for bringing the orders and then picking them up.

They were doing traditional Chikan craft embroidery, which this area of India is famous for. Most of the village women wanted to be part of this expanding business and Kesana sensibly said she could manage a team of up to 15 women and then another group would need to be administered by a different woman.

The fourth village, Karjhan, had managed to buy 25 large weaving looms which four women could work on at a time. They were making incredibly beautiful, intricate scarves for the Dubai market. Again, the orders were coming direct from Lucknow and so a much greater proportion of the money was going to the actual women who produced the goods. The abusive relationship with the male middle man was a thing of the past so the women could feel justly proud of their enterprise.
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• Kesana and some of her 15 women-strong Chikan craft embroidery group in Pathan Khera village
It was encouraging to see that these groups were not merely relying on the export market for their sales but in the fourth village they still needed to try and access orders more directly from the overseas source in Dubai to really secure a fuller financial benefit. And this is where lovethatstuff comes in.

By helping develop more patterns for products and supplying to markets in the U.K. and elsewhere, we hope to ensure some of the social premium which is necessary to help fund the many diverse projects NEED is involved in.

And apart from the very enjoyable work with a wonderful team of women based in the Lucknow workshop to develop new tops and bags, I also met and spoke to many knowledgeable and committed fair traders.
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• Anil Singh, Director of NEED

I had many excellent discussions with Anil Singh, the director of NEED, who is passionate about the people behind the products and who believes that fair trade is all about humanising trade, that it's not simply about increased income but about helping women realise their potential and discover their bargaining power.

This increases their self respect, hope and dignity. NEED have a good range of training on offer in skills, marketing, finance and health awareness which helps redress the very uneven distribution of income and power over resources which characterises rural India in particular.

Their label 'Shakti' or 'inner strength' is very apt - I saw it in abundance - and I will never forget it. Thank you all at NEED for teaching me so much.

Handmade Pride

Founded in 2011 by Mohammed Saifi as a result of witnessing the impact poverty has on kids, families and entire communities. Handmade Pride now employs over 200 artisans from villages, many of which are in Uttar Pradesh.

Advantages for workers of Handmade Pride are that they receive a fair wage; they often have skills training if they don’t already have a craft; they have health care; can send their children or younger siblings to school and some have a pension plan.

Traditionally many workers have been exploited as Indian middle men visit villages and pay very little for goods. So it’s good that Handmade Pride’s mission is to pay a fair wage, in a safe working environment and help preserve ancient crafts for villagers who often have very precarious amounts of income.

They make very beautiful, brass and silver plated bangles. These make ideal gifts and you’ll be providing much needed work for an Indian village artisan.