Narsapur, a small town situated on the West Bank of the Vasista Godavari River, where flows it in the Bay of Bengal, has been famous for lace making for more than 100 years. Most of the rural and semi-urban women belong to poor communities are making their livelihood by lace making. The work involved in making laces is voluminous and the beauty and the finishing of the articles manufactured is exquisite.
Originally Mrs. Macre of Scotland introduced lace making. Unfortunately the lace artisans were exploited by the middlemen exporters who got the lace articles manufactured by paying low and meager wages . Even then, there was no certainty that the women artisans would have work round the year. The middlemen had a monopoly in the entire lace business exploiting the artisans.
One of the exploited lace artisans, Mrs. K. Hemalatha frustrated with the continuous exploitation by the middleman, approached the All India Handicrafts Board for help and was advised to form a Co-operative Society, of which she became founder-president and designer. With the aim and object of the betterment of the financial position of the lace artisans, she made extensive tours covering 30 villages. Most of these were inaccessible, interior and could only be accessed by foot. This took more than 2 years and she explained at length to women artisans about the necessity of forming of cooperative society and the benefits it would bring.
Mrs. Hemalatha gathered the women artisans as members and applied for registration to the Government as a Cooperative Cottage Industrial Society. The middlemen exporters exerted their influence to prevent the registration of the society. At a certain stage members of the society had to resort to a hunger strike at the premises of the Industries Department of the government at the District Headquarters for registering the society. The matter was also taken to the ministerial level and at last she was successful in getting the society registered on 19th May 1979.
The present strength of the society is 610 members (both direct and indirect).
AIMS AND OBJECTS
In 1983, the society started its first business with Trade Aid, Christ Church, New Zealand, order for supplying Handmade Cotton Lace goods worth Rs. 8,750/-, giving the full amount in advance. They continued to cooperate with the society by placing orders regularly. The business gradually increased and the society located another Alternative Trading Organisation Oxfam Trading in Bicester, U.K., which started placing orders with the society, which is now able to do business and the artisan-members gratefully remember their help.
On the demise of Mrs. K. Hemalatha, the members elected her young and active married daughter Mrs. K. Satya Sri as their President, and persuaded her to come back to the village. Mrs. Satya Sri, a good organizer and good lace artisan, in her own right, soon won their confidence and started organizing the activities of the society. Despite the support she was finding it difficult to undertake long tours to metropolitan towns. Thus she persuaded her husband, Mr. Surya Prakash, serving in the Army, to resign and return to the village and help her in running the society.
The society is now giving the artisans strength to stand on their own and face the world. They are being trained specially to improve their skills and literacy level. The members feel proud that their work and worth is recognized in the world thanks to the A.T.Os. They are proud of their membership of IFAT and look forward for a sustained and meaningful life to enjoy and enrich, with the cooperation & support of all.