A Dip into MESH's Baseline Survey

Paper artisans showing their products at MESH Fair Trade Show , Hyderabad, 2010
MESH is conducting a baseline survey of artisan’s income in order to measure the impact of our work on their lives in the coming three years. Mary Rani and Madan Lal have been out interviewing the artisans with a standard questionnaire and the answers that I have seen so far are interesting and worth sharing just for the fact that they reveal that people struggle and MESH has a way to go yet.

Ten artisans were interviewed in a small self help group that makes paper products. Six of them said that they have to take loans regularly to meet their household expenses. One woman said that she manages her family with her income as her husband drinks away his earnings. Another woman with grown up children has enough income from her work and that of her husband that they had taken loans to get their children married and one fifth of the total income was spent paying those loans off.

In another community of weavers the two responses I have seen so far indicate that one woman manages her family of two children from running a breakfast cafe, her weaving work providing a small income only periodically. Her husband contributes nothing to the household expenses as he too is a drunkard. The second woman works as a weaver for fifteen days every month and her husband is the supervisor of the weaving unit. They have taken large loans to pay for their children’s higher education.

It would seem that wherever we look life is a struggle. In many cases when asked to comment on the impact of their handicraft work and sales to MESH they have said it has allowed them an increased income. In the weaving group the women said without regular fulltime work the impact is minimal.

I shall continue to report what we find.