Rural Kolkata got a new lease of encouragement to promote its weavers’ community.

Rural Kolkata got a new lease of encouragement to promote its weavers’ community. Freeset Fabrics, an NGO, working in Murshidabad, West Bengal was selected by Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) as one of the six social enterprises that were given grants and support for rural livelihood creation in the Indian crafts sector. This is part of an eighteen-month project named ‘Livelihood Creation in India’ (
) taken up by Harvard University SAI in collaboration with Tata Trusts. The outcomes of this project will be announced at a summit event, organised by Harvard University SAI. The other five social enterprises that also received grants are Women Weave from Madhya Pradesh, Kumaun Grameen Udyog (KGU) from Uttarakhand, Craftizen Foundation from Karnataka, Chitrika from Andhra Pradesh and Raah Foundation from Maharashtra.
The core theme of ‘Livelihood Creation in India’ focuses on three key areas: Rural Livelihood Creation through emphasis on the handicrafts and handloom sectors; Educational, Social and Economic Empowerment of Women; and Science and Technology-based Social Entrepreneurship As part of this program, budding social entrepreneurs and crafts enterprises in India applied for social innovation grants totalling INR 50 lakhs, to stimulate interventions and scale up existing initiatives that can lead to greater impact in select geographies.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Shashank Shah, Visiting Scholar, Harvard Business School and Project Director and Fellow Harvard University SAI, who led the project said, “Our objective of supporting Freeset Fabrics is livelihood creation in poor rural communities of Murshidabad, West Bengal for vulnerable women who would otherwise be at risk of trafficking into prostitution, bonded labour or migration. They have chosen handloom textiles to build on a tradition that was once thriving in this area but which has declined over recent decades. Therefore, Harvard SAI Project has supported Freeset Fabrics in the design of ergonomic looms for the physical, social and economic wellbeing of the women weavers in this region.” 
Explaining the overview of the project, Professor Tarun Khanna, Director, Harvard University South Asia Institute; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School; and Chairman, NITI Aayog Expert Committee on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Government of India, and faculty chair of this project,  said, “This project has involved rigorous research work with over 150 social enterprises across 15 states of India, 5 workshops with 125 participating enterprises, and 10 webinars involving Harvard faculty and subject experts from India.
Professor Mukti Khaire, faculty chair of the project on rural livelihood creation in the Indian crafts sector observed, “The main idea behind the project was to recognize, support, and strengthen the many organizations working in the handicraft sector across the entire country, in order to maximize their potential for social and economic impact on rural artisans’ lives.”
Tata Trusts collaborated with Harvard University SAI to build capacities that effect widespread catalytic change through the country. The collaboration provided a unique opportunity for social entrepreneurship and social institutions to flourish in an ever evolving landscape, expanding their reach within their chosen geographies, which resulted in more holistic impact for their communities.
On the occasion, three publications compiled by Harvard faculty, fellows and eminent subject matter experts, was released. These included:
  • Innovation in Tradition: Rural Livelihood Creation in the Indian Crafts Sector,
  • Science for Society: Science and Technology Based Social Entrepreneurship
  • Task-shifting in Healthcare: Reframing the AYUSH Debate.