After a decade’s experience in Corporate Social Responsibility, Kanika Pal started SoCHE Foundation(Solutions for Clea nand Healthy Environment) in September 2015 and quit her well paid job with an aim of nurturing the link between environment conservation and social upliftment.
Kanika has always been inclined towards environment conservation but her vision captures a different angle which was overlooked by everyone. It was during 2013 that the thought of helping the artisans of the country came first to her mind while she was attending the pottery class. She started understanding the plight of artisans who remain unconnected to the mainstream economy in the country which is moving towards the vision of ’Make in India’, leaving behind the traditional handicrafts like pottery, local kadhai-bunai, paper mache, paintings, nakkashi, etc.
Through Project Maati Milaap (the flagship initiative of SoCHE), she aims to improve environmental practices in the making of pottery products and the forgotten handicrafts in order to make them more environment friendly.
The project is currently active in Delhi Potter’s Colony where more than 3000 potters would be impacted by the work that SoCHE is doing to make the baking kilns energy efficient, as the black smoke arising from these kilns is too harmful.
Kanika says, “Specifically in the case of traditional handicrafts, middlemen are making most profits; while the production process continues to be inefficient and pollution intensive. Hence, we in SoCHE work towards creating a sustainable market place with fair pricing, eliminating the middlemen completely.”
Initially the artisans were apprehensive towards the work as in the past they have received a lot of NGO’s making use of them for their means. But through talks and workshops they were finally convinced. Another major challenge that she is facing is that of lack of funds.
Barmer in Rajasthan is another target location of the project. Kanika further plans to give skill training to women for additional livelihood support, in both Barmer and Delhi.
Though the investors are currently apprehensive to put in their money into this project, yet a crowd funding campaign running now is managing it, which has generated about Rs.75000 so far. Kanika is confident that in the near future, corporations would be interested in funding their projects through their CSR initiatives.
The labour intensive nature and low-income generation capacity of the craft is the reason that it is losing its hold in the society. Therefore, she has plans to connect all the 7 million artisans of the country to an e-commerce platform through Fair Pricing with an aim of spreading awareness about sustainable handcrafted and natural products. She also wishes to extend the project to Dokra artisans in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, in the future.
Her passion to work for environment is so much so that she left her corporate job to start this foundation. She says “I am committed to bridge the gap between social inequity and environment conservation by keeping my prime focus on the artisans, their livelihood and their influence on environment.”
“Change begins with a thought…SOCHE ke toh dekho!” are the inspiring words of the traveller and social entrepreneur Kanika Pal.
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