Published: 08th April 2020
This Bengaluru NGO has started a relief fund to help weavers, artisans get funds to tide over the loss of biz during lockdown
The Shreni Relief Fund, started by Shreni Community Trust, a non profit in Bengaluru, aims to provide direct monetary support to weavers and artisans amid the COVID-19 pandemic
The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is most acutely being felt by workers of the informal sector and that just doesn't mean the daily wage workers or migrant workers, but also includes our weavers, carpenters and artisans. As the crisis continues, weavers and artisans across the country have lost access to their daily income as production sites and workshops have closed down. These producer communities come from already socio-economically disadvantaged conditions and are perpetually stuck in the credit and debt cycles. Given the current lockdown, they have no alternative sources of income and are in grave financial distress.
The Shreni Relief Fund, spearheaded by Shreni Community Trust, a non-profit in Bengaluru, aims to provide direct monetary support to this section of the society. "Our aim is to help them overcome their lack of access to monetary capital. As Shreni already works with them on the ground, we have built a certain amount of through the years. Especially with the community leaders, who are basically one representative from a weaver or artisan community. When COVID-19 came into play a lot of our operations stopped and they expressed concerns over their livelihood," says Anupamaa Nayak, one of the associates of Shreni.
She explains to us that as these professions are already declining and hard to sustain, which is why the workers don't make a lot of money. "These weavers and artisans tend to fall between the cracks as they are not regularised salaried workers and thus are ignored and neglected largely. We are seeing a lot of fundraising done for daily wage workers but not many that are helping these communities," Anupamaa adds.
Shreni is headquartered in Bengaluru, but their community leaders in different clusters in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Shreni has a network of over 1500 workers, with secondary access to several thousand more from the informal sector. "Our members are spread over the south Indian states, in clusters such as Kallur, Shigli, Kamatagi, Guledgudda, Channapatna, Srikakulam, and Gadwal amongst others. From this network, we will identify 500 of the most vulnerable weaver and artisan families who will receive direct financial support to address their immediate needs such as food grains and medical supplies, as well as, to make credit and loan payments," says Anupamaa.
She says that the team at Shreni has been speaking to weavers and artisans for the past few weeks and found out that they need financial help more than anything else. "Most fundraisers are focused on providing aid in kind via food packages, care packages, medical kits, etc. However, despite payment moratoriums announced by the government, the need of the hour was to make direct funding available for distressed families to utilise as per their current socio-economic requirements. This is especially true for weavers and artisans, who have pending payments and loans from private moneylenders and traders, adding to the financial pressure they feel in the current atmosphere. We began this relief fund hoping to relieve some of this pressure by the direct transferring of a stipulated amount into their accounts for them to use as they seem fit. This also allows us to work remotely without disrupting social distancing guidelines on our end, as well for the beneficiaries," says the associate.
Shreni aims to raise Rs 15,00,000 (Rs 3000 x 500 families), for which they have set up a crowdfunding platform on Milaap. They began dispersing the funds late last week, around Friday, April 3. They had begun the process of collection from about March 20. "Since these weavers and artisans are a part of our network, we already have remote access to them through our online network and are currently collecting other details such as Aadhar and bank details. Then we directly transfer the funds. Some do not have bank accounts, their money is given to the respective community leaders who distribute cash while maintaining all the government regulations of social distancing. We follow up and also gather testimonials to keep a track of the funds correctly reaching the weavers and artisans," says Anupamaa.
She adds that if the crisis lingers, they might start another similar campaign later. However, she says that Shreni's main focus is to set up programmes and initiatives that will help these communities bring more stability to their lives in the long term. The Shreni Community Trust has been working with these communities for the past two years to provide them with sustainable livelihoods with the help of training programmes and networking opportunities.
Check out their campaign at: https://milaap.org/