Since 2014, AIACA has been working with the small and medium handloom weavers of Varanasi to mobilise them into an organised collective, develop business capacities, provide direct market access, develop entrepreneurship and promote authentic handloom brocade weaves.
With support from Ford Foundation, the project targets 4000 handloom weavers from the major handloom clusters- Bajardiha, Ramnagar, Kotwa and Lohta in Varanasi.
AIACA formed the Varanasi Weavers and Artisans Society (VWAS), also known as Varanasi Weavers Hub, a membership-based organisation of Varanasi handloom weavers and artisans. It is an inclusive platform of the weavers and artisans established to promote, continue and preserve authentic handloom weaves and crafts directly sourced from the producers. The Hub is certified by Craftmark (a national trademark that certifies genuine Indian handicrafts) and an authorised user of Geographical Indication (GI).
The project has been earmarked for strengthening institutional processes in place of sustainability. Weavers, who form the Governing Body and General Body of the collective, actively participate in decision making on certain key matters.
The collective provides a range of business development services to its member weavers, including design development and product diversification, business skill development, direct access to markets, technology inputs, social welfare schemes, access to finance, etc.
So far, VWAS (Varanasi Weavers and Artisans Society) has formed a robust institutional value system with an outreach of 4000 handloom weavers that promotes ethical and fair business practices through the provision of decent wages and profit shares among the producers and daily wage earners.
Around 400 aspirational weavers were trained and skilled by various capacity-building workshops. A notable increase in the annual weaver incomes can be seen. Nearly 50 units have reported an improvement of 60% in revenue.
Around 600 weavers were registered under health risk coverage worth INR 3.3 crores under Pradhan Mantri Jivan Jyoti Yojana and Ayushman Health Card schemes. About 3800 weavers are linked to weavers identity card through convergence with the Govt. department. Around 29 weavers are connected with the Mudra scheme and have received credit support of INR 14.5 Lakhs.