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Pabiben Rabari

"To keep the Rabari embroidery tradition alive, I started one of the first artisan enterprises to help women become independent and empower them to shape their own future."

"I am Pabiben Rabari and I'm from the Gujarat district of Kutch, which is celebrated for its art, crafts, music, dance... and people. As a child, I could not attend school, since my mother was a young widow who needed help to raise three girls. As the eldest, I helped mother take care of my sisters.

"In our community, women embroider for themselves and the family. I learned the crafts but, before I could complete my own dowry, the elder council of the community banned its use completely, because they believed women spent too much time working, which led to late marriages.

"Professional embroidery was allowed. I joined a women's professional embroidery group in 1998, and soon became known as a master artisan. I also searched for a way to solve the design problem of how to remain decorative without breaking the community rules.

"I came up with a new art form to apply appliqué to ready-made elements, which we called hari jari. The word means 'vibrant colorful works.' I used a dazzling combination of trims and ribbons, which hadn't been done before in my hometown. Mastering this art with enthusiasm, I used it to make a shopping bag. It was an instant hit and was christened the PabiBag. This design has appeared in Hollywood and Bollywood films.

"I began my workshop with a group of 50 women and I divide the workload according to their interests and age. I've trained young artisans who create the hari jari work and stitch well. I provide them with materials, so they can work from home, take care of their families, and make a final finished item themselves. For the older women artisans, whose eyesight is not as clear but who are still interested in this traditional craft, I provide them with appliqué work.

"To keep the Rabari embroidery tradition alive, I started one of the first artisan enterprises to help women become independent and empower them to shape their own future and those of their families. I aim to help women create their identity through their artistic talent.

"I'm very happy to have made changes in lives of Rabari women through my mission for social enterprise. My vision is to develop entrepreneurship among women artisans to strengthen their social and economic status and provide a platform to allow them to choose, use their maximum creativity in their work, to have dreams and fulfill them. I want women to have self respect and be recognized for their work."
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