Unnati is an initiative of Chaudhary Foundation catering towards sustainable prosperity through various livelihood program. Unnati is focused on women development and their empowerment through livelihood programs such as art, craft, tradition, and culture. Unnati’s philosophy of revival and survival of national heritage, through forms of crafts, dance, music, food, language, habitat and essentially encompassing the philosophy of life by which civilizations once thrived in culture and traditions. The essence being to bring the lost and found, old and new back into our everyday life and engagement and its mechanization with livelihood project is something that Unnati has been accomplishing.
In February 2018, Unnati opened its first outlet named Unnati Bazaar at Shashwat Dham, a place for the spiritual traveler at the scenic locale of Devchuli and Bartulis hills of Nawalparasi. Unnati Bazaar is proud to present a multifarious product sourced from the Himalayan Range rich in craft and traditional techniques that form an integral part of the livelihood of its region, biodiversity, and cultural heritage. The purity of material and painstaking processes is what makes them so special, unique and beautiful. Every product tells a story of a region, indigenous materials, and skills that have been safeguarded and handed down from centuries-old practices.
Whilst every region of Nepal boasts its own rich natural abundance, each entrepreneur Unnati partner with offers expertise in its own unique form of basketry. Weaving, dyeing and grass-rolling techniques differ across the regions as much as basket shapes, patterns, and structures. These precious handmade crafts are woven through the generations within families and hence passed along the continuous thread from mother to daughter – protecting and preserving an art form. Thus Unnati is fulfilling its objective to create a sustainable market demand for rural artisans and craftsmen through the platform of Unnati Bazar.
Where to find Unnati crafts and products
Unnati Craft Bazaar, Shashwat Dham
Located at Shashwat Dham — a popular destination for tourists and spiritual travellers alike — is the Unnati Bazaar, which is where you can purchase a diverse range of traditional crafts made by women across Nepal, including:
- Hemp products
- Handmade papers
- Beaded jewelry
- Pashmina shawls
- Organic food products
Unnati Cultural Village (Harkapur)
The Unnati Cultural Village (Harkapur) encompasses over 50,000 square meters of land in the idyllic setting of the Terai plains. For those seeking a cultural experience that showcases indigenous livelihoods, an opportunity to engage with artisans or a place to be inspired, the village is the perfect destination.
Unnati Cultural Village brings together the arts and cultures of the Indian sub-continent and beyond. It is a place where traditional livelihood practices are celebrated and sustained through the creation of market linkages, training opportunities, artist residencies, exhibitions and festivals.
Within the village is a beautiful boutique hotel, a retreat for hosting artists from around the globe, a craft centre for showcasing local arts, a performance area and an organic restaurant serving local Tharu cuisine.
In 2019, the village will host the first edition of the Unnati Cultural Festival. This event will bring together craftsmen, musicians and artists from both Nepal and beyond. Stay tuned for more information.
Meet some of our artisans
Sonam Karna, Mithila Artist
In 2018, Sonam partnered with Chaudhary Foundation to create the Mithila painting outside of Shashwat Dham’s Unnati outlets, which led her to an opportunity to paint the World bank’s walls as well. Here is her story:
When she was only fourteen-years-old, Sonam Karna became a well-known Mithila artist in India. However, the journey there was a long one, especially for such a young girl.
Sonam was born and raised near the Indian border in Janakpur, Nepal. Growing up, her grandmother taught her how to do Mithila, a traditional style of “folk painting” on the Indian subcontinent, and they would practice stroke after stroke for hours until she perfected the technique.
Though Sonam didn’t complete her schooling, she eventually joined Janakai Utpadan Samudayek Sanstha, a production group affiliated with Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF). The skill development training program helped her commercialize her work and advance her skills through management training, revolving funds and market linkage.
Following the training, she used her newfound courage to provide similar development training to other women in her community and began painting more.
Like many young women in her community, she married a few years later and became very involved in domestic duties, so she stopped pursuing Mithila art. As time passed, though, she realized it was important for her to earn for herself and do what she loved, so she decided to begin Mithila art again.
Today, Sonam is “proud” because she can support her family and encourage and inspire other young Nepali women to persevere and work.
“The hardships I have faced in life and the upbringing my parents have done has made me become the person I am today,” she said.