For Warli artisan Savita, who was financially independent before the pandemic, the depletion of savings and unstable earnings is a great cause of anxiety.

Savita Vastakar, a 32-year-old artisan, got trained in Warli art when she found out about the TISSER skilling program through a women’s self-help group in 2018. “I always loved to draw. I thought I could take up this work because I have artistic talent and I wanted to earn some money by working from home,” said Savita. 

Being an artisan allowed Savita to feel good about making her own money. But her world changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She went from being financially independent to income-less. “My earning had gone down to zero during the peak of the pandemic. Our TISSER work stopped for 2-3 months when the first series of lockdowns happened. Even though orders were coming in, none of us were leaving home so we couldn’t work,” she lamented. 

Resident of a chawl in Gaikarwadi, Maharashtra, Savita noticed that everyone in her neighbourhood was experiencing similar hardships. “The pandemic has impacted family earnings because work has become irregular. The kids are not going to school, online schooling is not very helpful and the kids are also bored. We are also scared to step out. Coronavirus has ruined everything,” said Savita, distraught and gravely worried about the path forward. 

Though not too optimistic about the future, Savita remarks how getting vaccinated has given her some hope that things will get better.

Her only means of income now is through TISSER — she makes clothes, wood frames, pots, etc. Even though income was irregular for a few months, things slowly started stabilising for Savita when India recovered from a harsh second wave in mid-2021. A part of the REVIVE Alliance, the UNDP-supported program by TISSER helps women artisans like Savita procure raw materials and sell finished artisanal products. “I got an order in June and another for a top in August,” said Savita. 

While Savita is glad to be earning something, the lack of stability in income has left her very worried, as the family has had to dip into savings to tide through the pandemic. 

There is a long road ahead before the lives of artisans like Savita can go back to normal. “Due to lack of money, people like me are unable to dream of a better future. I want to be able to earn a fixed salary so that I can take care of the household expenses and my children,” said Savita.

This story was editorialised by Raveena Joseph