PABIBEN & NOOPUR
Noopur Kumari is a graduate of design. After having studied design and worked with a lot of artisans as a part of the college projects, she had pondered over the question of why regional artisans do not get the recognition they deserve.
She took a dive towards co-founding "Kaarigar Clinic" - an initiative that upholds the Gandhian philosophy of rural development by mentoring local artisans to strategically grow their traditional craft practices into self-sustaining businesses.
Unlike a lot of initiatives and NGOs who take regional artisans under their organisation to give employment, Noopur works quite differently, enabling the artisans to build their own brand by providing them with all the necessary design, technological and financial support to grow. Pabiben is one such well-known artisan who became now a global brand, after her intervention.
Pabiben Rabari, a vibrant rabari lady, was born in Kukadsar village of Mundra taluka in Kutch. She could not attend school, as her mother Tejuben, a young widow, needed help raising three girls. The eldest, Pabiben helped care for her sisters. She dared to start one of the first artisan enterprises pabiben.com. Pabiben, now in her early 40s, has become an inspiration and idol to many in her community.
What is your favourite word?
Noopur: Identity. Most of the artisans work with NGOs and get employment. They get paid. However, what gets lost is their identity. If you look at Pabiben, people know who she is. We want to create more such stories and help the artisans build their own identities.
What was the moment in your life that made you Blossom into the person you are today?
Pabiben: In the village where I come from, it is a tradition for girls to learn embroidery in order to get married. We don't give money as dowry, we give embroidered clothes. So, the need to learn embroidery for my wedding's dowry taught me the craft.
All the women in our village also work with the traders who come from the cities. We do embroidery for their clothing and we get paid a small amount of money for that. I always wondered why our identity is never carried in the garments that we made. People who wear them would never know which village they came from or which artisan worked on their garments - that thought always bothered me. On the other hand, I didn't really know what to do about it.
After I got married in 2003, I had still continued to do the embroidery work. In 2015, my husband said to me, "You're so good at what you do. You are totally capable of doing this on your own. Why don't you try?"
That triggered me to think about starting on my own.
Noopur: When I was studying fashion in college, the students never knew about women artisans who do this amazing embroidery from the village. I always wondered why the names of these women never come out into the public. Nobody promotes them. Every person who takes their work promotes their own brand and there is never a mention of the artisan behind it. I wanted to change that.
So I met Pabiben and told her my ideas of the change I wanted to bring. Both of our thoughts matched very well and that's how we started off for the first time. We gave her a platform of her own. We never put our name in the limelight. For us, it's about directly promoting the artisan's identity and letting the world know about them.
Today, Pabiben is known as a brand globally. Everyone knows her work and its quality. Our aim is to create an identity as such for more artisans.
What would you want the young boys & girls to learn from your journey?
Pabiben: The only lesson I have for the young minds is to take my life as an example. I am a woman who doesn't know anything about how the world works outside my own village. I am not educated and I don't have any experience of being an entrepreneur or doing business. But if I am able to achieve so much in my life, then the kids of today who are getting an education and have so many ways to explore new things in life can achieve so much more.
The lesson is to not doubt yourself and to not let the lack of knowledge hold you back from what you want to do. I want to inspire people to do something for themselves without fear. Noopur: All I want to do is find more such women artisans and promote them. The young minds of today need to contribute to a cause like this. If they look at the artisan's world, the world will look at this. We need to consciously work to put focus on these art forms and artisans.