Wicker handicraft, traditionally known as “Shaakhsaazi” (Kaanyil Kaem), is a prominent small-scale forest-based cottage industry playing a vital role in securing livelihoods, socio-culture upliftment, employment generation, rural development and poverty alleviation of the stakeholders in Kashmir. The wicker products have a sound local demand as the majority of wicker handicrafts are used for domestic use in Kashmir. However, some immediate and astute measures are needed for addressing the problems being faced for sustaining the wicker handicraft in the region.
KADAM as Domain expert stepped in to work with J&K Govt and the World Bank in the Jhelum & Tawi Flood recovery project from 2020- 2022 to create a first of its kind, producer collective of willow wicker crafts, with 100% ownership with the artisans. This collective was named SHAAKSAZ to be equipped with 600 willow wicker artisans of Kashmir (currently 450 already undergoing trainings by KADAM, required to run their own company- SHAAKSAZ)
Vasudhaiva Kodambakkam, an ancient Indian phrase meaning “the world is one family”, pithily captures the spirit of SHAAKSAZ’s approach to all aspects of life including economic development.
In line with the above, women artisans have also entered the team of SHAAKSAZ to work hand in hand with the male members of SHAAKSAZ. www.shaaksaz.com. SHAAKSAZ members not only got trained in various managerial/ digital literacy/ eco-dyeing/ business ethics/ international packing & production standards but also working collectively.
Ghulam Mohammad Magray - One of the 5 executive directors of SHAAKSAZ
Born as PwD (person with disability) in 1976 to a family of wicker basketry makers, he currently resides in Kachan, Ganderbal in a joint family with four siblings. Ghulam Mohammad Magray is a proud yet humble third generation basketry maker. He has four daughters and aspires to get them involved in the craft business in future, which is not such a norm in this craft for daughters to get into. Shaaksaaz has encouraged him and given him the confidence to give his daughters the opportunity to take his business forward.
Ghulam’s grandfather used to make limited items for example picnic/ fruit/ photure (load bearing baskets). Their homes were like gurukuls for all sons of the family to go through that tough home schooling in traditional wicker craft making on Sundays & holidays.
They have their own farmland where they grow willow wicker, and his dexterous handcrafting talent shows itself to all who see the final products made by him.
With Shaaksaz, Ghulam has seen his talent being recognized while understanding and getting a new vision on how new techniques/dimensions & shape with good quality can widen his market. In this project via Shaaksaz, he got an opportunity to work with an American designer Howard Peller, where he made wicker lights, which has been shortlisted by ATA (Aid to Artisans) and is being presented in Las Vegas market from 24-28th July’2022 by the KADAM team Furthermore, He got an award too in 2021 from the State govt for developing a wall clock in willow wicker.
Ghulam’s enterprising ability to be a team person along with being an excellent artisan is what sets him apart. He is now on the executive board of the company which has the support from kadam haat, the Govt of J&K & the world bank.
One day in 2006, she showed up at our KADAM office in Kolkata with her mother for support. The misfortunes she had faced left her unable to manage even one square meal a day
Since that day, Kadam took her under its wing and today she has the strength to stand on her feet and fight the social evils that she was riddled with for years.
She Aspires to build a home of her own one day & educating her 2 daughters just the way her father had educated her. She Started with 2 craftswomen and today runs the show managing a crew of 115 craftswomen. As more and more women join her cluster, she continues to strengthen and empower the many women she has taken under her wing.