Since its creation in 1975, Asha Handicrafts has promoted the diverse skills of traditional Indian craftspeople to the world. When Mrs Iscah Andrews set up Asha, she knew that a single action was worth more than a thousand intentions, just as a journey of a thousand miles will always begin with the first step.

Mrs Andrews began working with one artisan, and over the last 40 years, this single action has influenced the lives of thousands of others. Over the last 40 years, Asha has striven to empower women and single parents, provide artisans with stable incomes and safe working conditions, and to further their knowledge of their craft with ongoing training and learning opportunities.

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Though one organisation, Asha is split into two divisions. While one focuses on the promotion and trade of handcrafted items, the other focusses on local welfare programmes and artisanal learning and development. Both divisions are dedicated to putting people before profit. Asha is a shining example of how business can change lives – and by staying true to fair trade values, they’re enhancing the lives of a whole spectrum of artisans every single day, from block-printers to jewellery-makers.

These artisans can be found in small workshops and studios throughout India, and each has his or her own story. Meet Munni, who used her skills as a specialist polisher (specialising in beautiful antique finishing) to join a studio in Saharanpur. Her techniques and skills now support her children to choose their own future, whether it be to follow in their parent’s creative footsteps or to attend university. Another example is Nayna, who at 35 years old is an expert embroiderer with one of Asha’s smaller groups. Nayna is a single mother, who can now use her traditional skills to support her children independently.

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