In South Asia, the home has always been where textile, craft and food traditions have flourished. The region has, for centuries, been known for its exquisite weaves, colourful yarns, delicate sequin, bead and embroidery work, along with a rich range of homegrown spices and cuisines. However, we rarely know of the artisans behind our heritage and the Home Is Where The Art Is Campaign looks to change that.
Meet The Workers
In the 21st century, globalisation has changed the way businesses and markets operate. Often, your favourite fast fashion brand or your go-to home decor label will source its products from the world over, including South Asia. These products are made at large factories but, often, they are also made by a hidden category of workers – home-based workers.
There are over 61 million home-based workers in four countries of South Asia alone, including, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. There are millions of others who are unaccounted for. A majority of home-based workers are women and they often make the clothes we wear, the food we eat and the handcrafted pieces we decorate our homes with.
But these women home-based workers rarely get their due. Operating in supply chains means that they are not recognised as workers, their earnings are too little to ensure a decent life for themselves and their families, are often subjected to violence and harassment by middlemen and contractors, and have no rights as workers.
Of The Workers, By The Workers, For The Workers
In the past decades, however, South Asia has seen the emergence of home-based worker producer companies, cooperatives and enterprises. These organisations are owned and operated by women home-based workers and they ensure that the workers:
- Earn fair wages and are not exploited.
- Are involved in decision-making processes
- Make products that are ethical and preserve traditions.
- Have access to trainings.
- Receive support from their organisations, especially, during a crisis.
These organisations have achieved much since they have operationalised and have also given back to their communities. In many regions, these enterprises have generated income opportunities for women home-based workers were there were few avenues of work. In others, they have been the sole preservers of dying textile arts. All of them, have been successful in linking millions of home-based workers to domestic and international markets – cutting out exploitation and ensuring fair economic opportunities to their members.
HBW producer companies, cooperatives and social enterprises have also been involved in the fight against COVID-19 in their countries. They have reimagined their supply chains to make masks and other critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers.
Stand With Workers – Towards A Better World
However, the pandemic has resulted in challenges for these organisations. Disruptions in markets has meant that work has dwindled down, leaving home-based worker artisans with apprehensions about their future.
There has never been a better time to support HBW organisations. As a Network of home-based worker organisations, including producer companies, cooperatives and social enterprises, HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) through the campaign is looking to:
- Bring focus and visibility to home-based workers and their organisations.
- To showcase the unique, handmade and ethical products that these organisations offer.
- To highlight the contributions of home-based workers in preserving traditions and in building a sustainable future.