Meera Bhattarai started her career at the Nepal Women's Organization. After 10 years she had become increasingly frustrated with the bureaucracy, corruption and mistreatment by government staff towards the poor, particularly women. She resigned her position to set up ACP, to improve the situation of the Nepalese poor. Since then, Meera has focused on three major systemic changes needed to improve how handicraft businesses are run: ensure product portfolios meet international quality and design standards; reintroduce ancient crafts; and organize women with families and farming responsibilities into a reliable workforce.
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- Association for Craft Producers
- For-profit Social Enterprise
- Gender Inequality
- Areas of Impact
- South Asia, Nepal
Association for Craft Producers
Association for Craft Producers (ACP) is not just a cooperative, but a catalyst for women’s empowerment by offering female craft workers fair income earning opportunities. While there is nothing new about traditional handicraft as a source of income, ACP’s engagement with local producers acts as a cornerstone of its model and the reason for its success.
Drawing on long of experience of working with women, ACP promotes handicraft production backed by a support programme that assures the supply of raw material, design ideas, management skills and organized market outlets. ACP also provides producers with salaries and social benefits, such as health and housing subsidies, an emergency fund and aid for education (two children per family, at least one being female).
ACP started with 38 craft producers, and today has more than 1,100 (90% women) from 15 districts in Nepal. Their work covers 21 product areas including ceramics, basket weaving, toy making, tableware, wool products and carpentry. ACP has 60 full-time staff and continues to grow, and has remained fully self-sustaining since 1987 (three years after it initiated operations). It serves as an example of what a carefully planned, socially conscious business investment can achieve. The success of the cooperative scheme lies in the reinvestment of profits to benefit the producers.
Women’s earnings from the sales of crafts are an important part of their household economy. Such income has brought increased support and respect from their husbands and fathers, given them a greater voice in household decisions and an increased determination to educate their children, especially their daughters.