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TBI Blogs: From a Village in Kutch, Pabiben Rabari Created a Global Brand to Empower Local Female Artisans

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India’s Kutch region is home to some truly amazing art and craft traditions that have been handed down over generations. One woman from the local Rabari community has been instrumental in taking these traditions to the world.

Kutch is celebrated for its art, crafts, music, dance, and people. Smt. Pabiben Rabari, founder of Pabiben.com, one of the first Women Artisan enterprises, and based in Bhadroi Village, Kutch, Gujarat, is a true brand ambassador of the colourful Kutch district.

It has not been an easy journey for her. Being the eldest among three daughters, Pabiben helped her widowed mother by filling water at people’s homes for just one Rupee. Unable to go to school, she was drawn to traditional embroidery, which she learned from her mother.

It is customary among the Rabaris, also a tribal community from Kutch, to give away embroidered pieces as dowry. This means that girls have to stay back with their parents until they are older, because they have not finished the pieces to take to their husband’s home. To ease the burden on the girls, the village elders banned embroidery for personal use.

But Pabiben realized the decision also meant they would no longer have a place to display their craft.

Smt. Pabiben Rabari
Smt. Pabiben Rabari

Pabiben joined a Rabari women’s group in 1998, and soon became famous as the master artisan of the group. She found a solution to create decorative embroidery without breaking the community’s rules. She invented a new art form—machine application of ready-made elements, which was named “Hari Jari”.

For the first time in the Dhebaria community, Pabiben used the vibrant combination of trims and ribbons, which was famously known as “Pabi Jari”. She mastered this art with enthusiasm, and made a sample shopping bag. It became an instant hit, and was christened the “Pabi Bag”! The Pabi Bag has now been introduced to the contemporary market. Currently her products include different kinds of purses and bags, toilet kits, durries, files, quilts, cushion covers, etc.

Pabiben’s design has been shown in many films, and is popular globally.

Artisan holding Pabi Bag
An artisan holding a Pabi Bag.

Currently, her eponymous business in her village, Kukadsar, employs over 60 women making more than 25 designs. Her website pabiben.com is popular across the world. A vibrant Rabari lady, Pabiben has become an inspiration and an idol to many in her community. Pabiben.com aspires to help women become independent and empowered to shape their own future, and those of their families and future generations.

It aims to inspire the village women to create their own identity with the help of their artistic talent.

Pabiben along with group of Women Artisans
Pabiben along with group of women artisans.

Pabiben’s focal point is to promote the enterprise as a Rural Business Model – a Gandhian approach to rural development. She strongly believes that one has to apply the Gandhian model globally to improve the quality of life in villages, and to contain the massive migration into the slums of megacities. One must strive to preserve and encourage the rich indigenous knowledge, culture, and the traditional arts and crafts, including the practical wisdom, of traditional societies.

Pabiben has brought about effective changes in the lives of the Rabari women with her great vision and enterprise.

Her vision to develop entrepreneurship among women artisans has strengthened their social and economic status and provided them a platform to be capable and independent.

Smt. Pabiben Rabari receiving 24th IMC- Ladies’ Wing Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar-2016 from Mr. Aditya Puri – Managing Director, HDFC Bank and Mrs. Tara Sharma Saluja - Actress, Entrepreneur, Creator, Co – Producer and Host of The Tara Sharma Show
Smt. Pabiben Rabari receiving the 24th IMC Ladies’ Wing Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar, 2016 from Mr. Aditya Puri, Managing Director, HDFC Bank, and Mrs. Tara Sharma Saluja, Actress, Entrepreneur, and Creator, Co-Producer, and Host of The Tara Sharma Show.

For her accomplishments, and undying spirit of strengthening women’s socio-economic conditions, Pabiben is truly worthy of an accolade, and thus, she was felicitated with the coveted IMC Ladies’ Wing 24th Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar for Rural Entrepreneur for the Year 2016.

Find out more about Pabiben and her work on Facebook and Twitter.

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Janki Devi Bajaj Foundation The IMC Ladies' Wing - Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar promotes, supports and honours the substantial work being done by woman entrepreneurs in rural India.