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$1,616
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The project's funding goal was not reached on Sat, December 30 2017 1:34 PM UTC +00:00
Sasha PouckiBy Sasha Poucki
First created
Sasha PouckiBy Sasha Poucki
First created
$1,616
pledged of $11,500pledged of $11,500 goal
23
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Sat, December 30 2017 1:34 PM UTC +00:00

About

About The Initiative 

A temple cover hanging on the side of a house in the back streets of Varanasi. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
A temple cover hanging on the side of a house in the back streets of Varanasi. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

Azimuth180˚ is engaged in the Rug Weaving Community Empowerment and Sustainable Business Development Initiative in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. To execute the initiative, Azimuth180˚ has teamed up with a well-established local non-governmental organization, the Human Welfare Association (HWA). Together, we plan to facilitate the formation of a cooperative and to assist local rug weaving artisans’ in developing sustainable and continuous production by simplifying the supply chain and providing weavers with direct access to consumers. HWA has worked for the last 25 years directly with local communities, small producers, artisans, and craftspeople in a variety of social development and community empowerment project.

Weavers making a rug. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Weavers making a rug. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

Azimuth180˚ will be working with 50 master weavers and a number of their associates and apprentices (usually between 2-4 per master weaver). The initiative will also support other related wool-processing and rug finishing jobs (e.g. wool carding, spinning, washing, cutting etc.) and facilitate training programs for the community. To bring this initiative alive and provide assistance in securing continues employment for first six months, the initiative will need at minimum fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000.00). On average, it takes approximately 6 months to make a rug dimensions of 8 x 10 feet. The rug of that size and depending on the design style can have up to one million individually made knots in it. 

Our aim is to increase participating members’ average income by up to 50% and to increase overall employment in participating communities by up to 25% in the first two production years. Azimuth180˚ intends to complete the initiative within 3 to 5 years. During that time frame, the cooperative should build enough business capacity and generate necessary financial assets to become self-sufficient and run the full production cycle on its own. In order for Azimuth180˚ to know our future achievements or failures and be fully transparent, we plan to conduct the baseline research study among our participating target community that will record their current socio-economic status.  

A weaver holds the yarn warps for a photo (Photo courtesy of Rajesh Kumar Singh).
A weaver holds the yarn warps for a photo (Photo courtesy of Rajesh Kumar Singh).

Azimuth180˚ will distribute the profits generated back to the artisans and community via a cooperative’s community development fund (CCDF). The CCDF will be used by the cooperative members in ways to be determined by the cooperative that will benefit the whole community. Special emphasis will be given to the development of programs for women and children. 

Smiling faces of Kapsethi Village children, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Smiling faces of Kapsethi Village children, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

About Us

Azimuth180˚ is a non-profit organization that aims to prevent exploitation and empowers small producers and artisans in the global and local setting by facilitating fairer trade and more streamlined access to the global markets.

Azimuth180˚ Mission is to make impactful changes to the lives of struggling people and assist them in navigating toward better future.

Why We need the Kickstarter Campaign?

In efforts to lift this initiative from the ground up and into the production phase we need to raise awareness, social media presence, and marketing and to purchase the necessary raw materials to start with the rug production. In order to do that, we need your generous financial support as well as to spread the word and promote our initiative. We humbly ask your assistance to raise a minimum $15,000 for described activities. 

Responsible Produced Rugs and Child Labor

Azimuth180˚ strives to assure the highest quality of unique hand-knotted rugs and at the same time, we want to assure full transparency in the supply chain and labor conditions. By achieving this, we aim to increase public access to socially responsibly produced rugs, to create sustainable jobs, preserve local artisans traditional skills and heritage, and to form a cooperative, to assist in the development of basic business skills. Azimuth180˚ believes that by achieving these goals we will be able to tackle the root causes of potential harmful labor migrations and rural depopulation that can lead to vulnerability and abuse.  

Currently, some families rely on their children for the production of rugs, silk and tufted carpets in our target communities as a mechanism to make ends meet. If this practice is done in hazardous conditions and takes children from regular school attendance or is physically or emotionally harmful it is clearly not in the best interest of children and Azimuth180˚ is against such practice. That said, our initiative will gradually reduce and ultimately eliminate the need for child labor in this industry in Varanasi area unless it is beneficial for children to develop such skills.

A boy assisting in the family production of the carpet. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
A boy assisting in the family production of the carpet. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

According to the 2001 Population Census, there were 12.6 million registered cases of children between ages of 5-14 engaged in work. The state of Uttar Pradesh alone having 1,927,997 cases, which was the highest number of any Indian state. Out of the total number of registered child labor cases, there were 128,984 cases of children between 5-14 years of age involved in hazardous occupations of spinning and weaving.    In the 2011 Population Census of India, the total number of children between ages of 5-14 engaged in work stood at 10.1 million. The state of Uttar Pradesh still had the highest number of registered cases, with 2.1 million. (Source: Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner – Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (2001). Population Census of India 2001 and 2011).

A young lady spinning wool. (Photo courtesy of Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A young lady spinning wool. (Photo courtesy of Rajesh Kumar Singh)

If the Azimuth180˚ initiative in Varanasi, India (our pilot project) proves to be a successful model, we hope to scale it up by implementing the same approach in other industries and in different geographical areas.

The Weavers 

Mr. Bismillah starting his morning with an outdoor shower. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Mr. Bismillah starting his morning with an outdoor shower. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

Mr. Bismillah is a master carpet weaver from Kapsethi Village. He is over 90 years of age and fought in the war of independence. He maintains his presence in the weaving community by partly overseeing the work done by his family members, a tradition that has stretched back from generation to generation. He stands symbolically next to a tree that shares the resilience of age.

Ms. Salma Bano immersed in rug weaving. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Ms. Salma Bano immersed in rug weaving. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

Ms. Salma Bano from Jaddupur Bahari Village has two younger sisters and three younger brothers. Her father died five years ago of tuberculosis caused by the conditions brought on by poverty. After her father's death, Ms. Bano felt she was a burden to her family and worked as a maid in the village struggling to make ends meet until Human Welfare Association (HWA) identified the family and trained Salma to become a master weaver. After completion of the training, Salma installed a knotted Carpet loom in her house and started producing rugs.

Ms. Salma Bano with another female artisan. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Ms. Salma Bano with another female artisan. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

She has trained her younger siblings. Together they now earn approximate 10,000/- rupees per month. This initiative will help Salma earn more money for her family by removing the middleman and exporters who currently take the lion's share of the profits.

Mr. Abdul Karim working on his carpet. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Mr. Abdul Karim working on his carpet. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

Master weaver Abdul Karim of Kapsethi village has been weaving carpets since he was a child for over 40 years. He takes great pride in his work but is frustrated that he earns so little for his skills, like Salma he is at the mercy of middlemen to provide him with contracts. He laments that despite his long hours working at the loom, he is often not paid on time for his work and struggles to put food on the table for his family. Your support will help us remove the middlemen and provide Mr. Karim with a steady income.

Rugs Made by the Cooperative Artisans

The process of the wool spinning. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
The process of the wool spinning. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

In the rug production process, the cooperative artisans source the wool from local producers, which is then hand-carded and handspun by wool processing workforce in the Varanasi area. The yarn is also locally dyed by using all natural and organic materials. In addition to wool, rugs can be made of or in the combination of Jute, silk, cotton and recycled materials.

Mr. Abdul Karim from Sewapuri Blalock Village, a master weaver glancing over his rug samples. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Mr. Abdul Karim from Sewapuri Blalock Village, a master weaver glancing over his rug samples. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

The rugs' portfolio comes in the standard dimensions e.g. 4x6 and up to 12x16 as well as in the standard shapes. However, for prospective customers, the cooperative artisans can fully support any custom size, colors, design and shape orders.

 

Men working on the rug production. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Men working on the rug production. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

Our Local Partner-Human Welfare Association (HWA)

Dr. Rajani Kant is an Executive Director of the Human Welfare Association (HWA). For the last 25 years, his work has focused on community developmental issues at the grassroots and sustainable livelihood level. Dr. Kant's projects span from India Handloom Branding, Gender Issues, Communal Development, Advocacy on Child Rights, Handicraft, Weavers, Artisans, Marginalized Farmers, Women literacy initiative as well as a number of Environmental projects. Dr. Kant is a member of the Azimuth180˚ Advisory Board and will be in charged to oversee our initiative on the ground. He resides in Varanasi, India. 

Dr. Rajani Kant, an Executive Director of the Human Welfare Association (HWA). (Photo courtesy of HWA)
Dr. Rajani Kant, an Executive Director of the Human Welfare Association (HWA). (Photo courtesy of HWA)

 About Us

Jennifer Bryson Clark, co-founder of Azimuth180˚ is a political science professor at South Texas College. She is an internationally recognized scholar in the area of trafficking of persons. Jenny, also taught graduate level classes in social work and anthropology at Sambalpur University, Orrisa, when she traveled to India in 2011 to do research on bonded labor. With an interest in photography, Jenny was drawn to the ancient Holy City of Varanasi. After her first trip, she spends five more summers there. 

While in India she met Dr. Rajani Kant, the director of the Human Welfare Association (HWA). Following many field trips with the HWA to women’s empowerment projects, Jenny took special note of communities known for their production of handmade products, such as Banaras silk saris, woven rugs, and other artisanal work. Even though there is a high demand in many parts of the world for hand-knotted carpets and hand-woven saris, the weavers themselves live in poverty. Despite their unique skills, they are marginalized, as most of the weavers are Muslim or from the scheduled castes, exploited, and dependent on contractual arrangements that ensure that they will struggle to put food on the table for their families.

Jenny (Co-Founder of Azimuth180˚) visiting a local community in Varanasi, Summer 2017. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Jenny (Co-Founder of Azimuth180˚) visiting a local community in Varanasi, Summer 2017. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

 

Regardless of their traditional skills and mastery of carpet production that has provided for generations a way to earn income and support their households, nowadays many weavers must look for alternative ways to survive. In the majority of cases, these small producers lack funding for raw materials, carpet designs, or access to the market, and are unable to work continuously. For many of them, these are obstacles that are impossible to overcome.

After she discussed the plight of the weavers with Dr. Sasha Poucki, a fellow internationally recognized scholar, a subject expert on human trafficking and co-founder of Azimuth180˚, Jenny and Sasha decided to seek ways to assist the community, and the Rug Weaving Community Empowerment and Sustainable Business Development Initiative and Azimuth180˚ were born.

Jenny and Sasha felt compelled to form Azimuth180˚ and move from their regular academic and research work and directly take an active stand on the ground by making positive changes to lives of people and communities in need. 

Dr. Sasha Poucki is the Co-Founder and an Executive Director of Azimuth180˚. Sasha provides leadership and organizational vision to Azimuth180˚. He holds a Ph.D. In Global Affairs from The Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark and a J.D. from The University of Novi Sad, Republic of Serbia. Before joining Azimuth180˚, Sasha worked as an educator, academic researcher, and consultant. His research interests include the exploration of topics related to the processes of globalization, human trafficking and modern-day slavery, human rights, the vulnerability of minority groups, business conduct, and corporate responsibility, irregular migration, technology, and society.  He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Dr. Sasha Poucki, Co-Founder of Azimuth180˚. (Photo courtesy of Sasha Poucki)
Dr. Sasha Poucki, Co-Founder of Azimuth180˚. (Photo courtesy of Sasha Poucki)

 The Initiative Work Location   

View from the River Ganges on the Ghats of Varanasi. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
View from the River Ganges on the Ghats of Varanasi. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

Our initiative is based in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India and surrounding villages like Kapsethi, Sewapuri Blalock, Jaddupur, Bahari Village and few others.

The city of Varanasi (वाराणसी) is also known as Banaras or Kashi. The city sits on the river banks of famous River Ganges. The city is a major religious hub in India and it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism, and it also played an important role in the development of Buddhism. Varanasi district is comprised of 1329 surrounding villages. Predominant industry and the main employer in the district is the textile industry among which is the silk weaving and spinning.

A group of people involved in the ritual bathing in the Holy Ganges river. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
A group of people involved in the ritual bathing in the Holy Ganges river. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

 

Thank you for visiting our Kickstarter page and for your help! 

On the end, Azimuth180˚ would like to thank all our friends, colleagues, cooperative artisans participating in the initiative and people of good will who have helped and assisted us in the process of the formation of Azimuth180˚ and initiation of this initiative. Your in-kind work and pro-bono engagement made this possible and it is an invaluable contribution to us. 

Especially, we would like to thank our web developers, BUS computers for helping launch our website. Also, we send gratitude to Masha and Vladimir who have assisted with the creation of the organization’s logo and Rajesh and his team who have traveled to Varanasi to our target communities and filmed and created the promotional video for us. David for providing his legal guidance and other administrative and regulatory assistance. Priti Yadav is our super creative carpet designer and an awesome young lady that deserves special gratitude for sharing her designs with us. Also, Pinar Lacroix thank you for sharing your knowledge about the carpet designs and overall intricacies of carpet business. 

Last but not least, our special thanks go to Dr. Rajani Kant. Without you, Dr. Rajani, your organization, the Human Welfare Association (HWA) and the cooperative artisans there would be no initiative.

 

Together we can make a change!

Aarti flower arrangements by the Ganges River. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)
Aarti flower arrangements by the Ganges River. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bryson Clark)

 

Risks and challenges

As in any project, business or life unexpected things can happen. In order to minimize our risks and challenges, Azimuth180˚ has partnered with the local non-profit organization, the Human Welfare Association (HWA) from Varanasi, India. The HWA has an excellent reputation and well-established track record working on empowerment projects with the local community, small producers, and artisan for over 20 years. The Azimuth180˚co-founder Jennifer Bryson Clark has spent last five summers in Varanasi area and has collaborated previously with Dr. Rajani Kant who is the HWA executive director.

Potentially, we see challenges coming out from unexpected extreme weather conditions that can slow down the production as many members of the cooperative work from their private homes, which in some cases are not fully enclosed. We also see in the case of special-custom order need for allocation of an extra production time and qualified manpower to fulfill such special order. However, that is normal and to expect in the case of custom types of orders.

Azimuth180˚ is a new startup non-profit organization and hence does not have any previous engagements, unfinished past projects or requires special approval or premarket review from an outside company or agency before we can distribute any rewards.

This initiative is the early stage and it is a work in progress. The potential success or failure of this initiative will be largely credited in part to this Kickstarter campaign.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A personal thank you card

    A personal thank you card made out of recycled material, written on the Hindu language and signed by one of Co-Founders of Azimuth180˚. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress.

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    An original Photo Pictures.

    An original printed and signed picture or e-copy of the people or images of Varanasi, India captured via the photo lens of Jennifer Bryson Clark, the co-founder of the Azimuth180˙. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress.

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    Handmade Beaded Bracelets

    This handmade beaded bracelets produced by artisans supported by the HWA in Varanasi, India. This item will remind you every time about people your pledge has assisted in creation of sustainable work and community empowerment. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress.

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    Handmade Cotton Dupatta

    Decorative handmade cotton dupatta (scarf) in natural colors. At your next social event make this item stand out and let your activism be recognized. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Small decorative rugs 2' x 3'

    A handmade rug of your choice, made by our initiative's cooperative members. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress.

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    An accent decorative rug 3' x 5'

    A handmade decorative accent rug of your choice, made by our initiative's cooperative members. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress.

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    Pledge $3,000 or more About $3,000

    An accent decorative rug 6' x 8'

    A handmade decorative accent rug of your choice, made by our initiative's cooperative members. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress. Your charitable contribution will be fully tax deductible.

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    A standard size decorative rug 8' x 10'

    A handmade decorative accent rug of your choice, made by our initiative's cooperative members. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress. Your charitable contribution will be fully tax deductible.

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    A large accent decorative rug 10' x 12'

    A handmade decorative accent rug of your choice, made by our initiative's cooperative members. Make this rug to stand out in your executive boardroom and be a focal point of conversation. For supporting our initiative, we will also add you to our listserv where you will receive monthly updates of our work and progress. Your charitable contribution will be fully tax deductible.

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Funding period

- (30 days)