Sunder Rang – A Rural Initiative Empowering Women in Chandelao

Read on as Sindhu Murthy writes about a rural initiative in Rajasthan, India which is empowering women

When we were exploring the offbeat areas in rural Rajasthan in India, one thing we noticed in common in almost all villages was that most of the women were confined to household work. Rarely did we see them go out to earn in a patriarchal society deeply influenced by the ancient culture and traditions. However, the scene was quite contrary at Chandelao, a quaint little village located at  40 km to the east of Jodhpur. Sunder Rang, one of the Initiatives of Chandelao Vikas Sanstha (Chandelao Development Organization) in collaboration with Basecamp Foundation of Norway is empowering a lot of women in Chandelao to earn a livelihood by making traditional arts and crafts along with promoting traditional crafts local to Rajasthan.

ladies at work at Sunder rang

Women at work at Sunder Rang in Chandelao

The situation was not the same in Chandelao in 2007 when the Sunder Rang came into existence. Being a highly structured society like any other village in Rajasthan, Chandelao had a clear demarcation of duties of the male and female members in the family. While the male members were sole breadwinners of the family, the female members were confined to domestic work and had no means to socialize or earn an independent income. It was not an easy task for the Chandelao Vikas Sanstha to get the ladies out of their homes for work. The best way to create income for the ladies was to encourage them to do what they knew best. Being a state of artisans, Rajasthan has a lot of traditional arts and crafts which are carried forward by generations. The Chandelao Vikas Sanstha together with local women created an arts and crafts center in the village of Chandelao. The partnership with Basecamp Foundation of Norway provided support to the organization through the promotion of Chandelao as a social tourism destination.

Tassels made at Sunder rang

Tassels being made at Sunder Rang.

Today, over 30 women work at Sunder Rang, producing traditional Rajasthani textiles and handicrafts for both local and export markets. With an aim to support the local craft skills and develop high-quality products in unique Rajasthani designs, Sunder Rang has been successful in generating sustainable income and promote women entrepreneurship.

Products on display at Sunder rang

Products put on display in one of the traditional Rajasthani huts in Sunder rang

Sunder Rang runs on a fair trade basis where a fixed salary is paid out the ladies on daily basis. Each piece of art made at the center is tagged with the name of the person who made it.  Besides the daily wages, a good portion of the profit obtained by selling the product is paid out to the person who made the article. In addition to helping the women generate income and provide for basic necessities, Sunder Rang has also been successful in nurturing bonds between women belonging to differents communities in the society thereby tackling the evil of caste system indirectly. By creating local jobs and providing a platform for developing local cultural knowledge and traditional skills, the project has already earned a good reputation in the village and in surrounding areas.

Traditional mud huts of Rajasthan for product showcase at Sunder Rang

The traditional Rajasthani huts made of mud and thatch in Sundar Rang

The product line at Sunder Rang includes clothes, accessories, handicrafts and upholstery. The products are made keeping the traditional touch in mind and every pattern/design is unique to Rajasthan. The women create intricate patterns and designs with embroidery, sewing, weaving and bead work. The finished products are displayed in the mud huts made by locally sourced material which showcases the cultural and artistic diversity of true Rajasthan. Visit their online gallery to have a look at the products on sale.

Products made at Sunder Rang

Some of the products made at Sunder rang

The Chandelao Vikas Sansthan has a 3P formula- People, Planet and Profit for promoting sustainable development and responsible tourism.Besides Sunder Rang, the Chandelao Vikas Sansthan has a computer learning center for the village children offering computer education for free. While Sunder Rang and the computer education center are two visible projects that are being successfully run, the Organization also has been actively working in improving sanitation in the village by building toilets for the village households and doing campaigns to reduce plastic garbage. Renewable energy like solar power is used to run the computer learning center and the gray water from the Chandelao Garh is used to water the gardens.

The free computer education center at Chandelao

The computer education center run by Chandelao Development Organization

Today, major customers for Sunder Rang are the guests who stay at Chandelao Garh. Though the sales go up during the peak tourist seasons when the hotel is full, the income goes down during nonpeak seasons. Since Chandelao is not a popular village, it goes unnoticed by many during their search for places to visit near Jodhpur which is another reason for the organization not getting much exposure. If you wish to experience the real essence of staying in rural Rajasthan and at the same time help a local initiative to promote sustainability, we urge you to pay a visit to Chandelao near Jodhpur and contribute to the initiatives of the Organization in whatever way possible. Please spread the word about the Chandelao Vikas Sanstha so that the news reaches many patrons who might as well help the organization grow.

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