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Women in the Handicraft Industry

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

The issues and challenges that women in various positions face in this male-dominated industry

By: Aditi Iyer

The handicraft industry in India is known for its intricate designs, brilliant colours, and delicately carved and crafted products; Indian craftwork is globally recognized. It employs many people living in rural areas, even women- rural artisans make up a significant portion of the handicraft industry. Despite these large numbers, women are still lagging behind in recognition and financial compensation.

Crafting doesn’t require an extensive educational framework- it merely requires dedication and a skilled and steady hand. The industry, however, is heavily male dominated, with men taking the helm even while women work just as much as they do. Handicrafts were historically only accessible to men—due to excessive family regulations, societal pressures, or domestic obligations. Women do the work, but men are the ones selling or marketing the products, as women aren’t allowed to be independent or lack the business acumen to promote and sell their products.

The industry, however, is heavily male dominated, with men taking the helm even while women work just as much as they do.

Women who are involved in crafting face their own challenges. The prevalence of a gender-based system of discrimination results in women being burdened with work and looking after the home, their children and providing for the family. They are expected to multitask while their contributions are ignored or considered inferior to the work put in by men. Moreover, women are often denied access to opportunities that could ensure their financial independence.

This gender-based discrimination extends even to women who have made the breakthrough toward being in charge of their businesses. Women in positions of power are often overlooked- their opinions and decisions are seen as either invaluable or are not taken seriously. Their male counterparts are more reliable and capable of making important decisions. This also bleeds into the handicraft items themselves- products made for home decor are seen as more feminine, domestic, or even docile. On the other hand, those made for corporate organizations or formal settings are seen as more masculine and commanding.

When procuring products, many women struggle with establishing validity as an entrepreneur. Price negotiations with sellers become increasingly challenging when they refuse to acknowledge women as legitimate business owners. Sellers either assume they are incapable of coming up with ideas for promoting products or that they are not trustworthy enough to handle the products.

Women must constantly do extra work to gain the same recognition as men. Sometimes, women pretend that their own ideas come from men to have the hope of being listened to. Finding trustworthy investors, suppliers, and vendors is also more challenging. This is because they are not taken seriously and are de-legitimized as decision makers.

Despite these persistent prejudices and ignorant practices, women have made breakthroughs in the business world. They continue to persevere in their attempts to become recognized as artisans and business owners by making their mark one step at a time. The Palkhi is a woman-led business that understands and has experienced these difficulties but continues to establish itself as a credible and legitimate brand.

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