Laila Tyabji Biography – University of Copenhagen

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Laila Tyabji


Laila Tyabji is a designer, writer, and founder member and Chairperson of DASTKAR, a Society for Crafts & Craftspeople. She has worked in the craft and development sector since 1978.  She received the "Padma Shri" for her work in 2012 In 2003, Laila was the recipient of the AID TO ARTISANS Preservation of Craft Award in New York – the 2nd-ever recipient, and first Asian.

DASTKAR is a national NGO providing a variety of support services to traditional artisans - including training, credit, product development, design and marketing. Established in 1981, its objective is to help craftspeople (India’s second largest employment sector) regain their place in the economic mainstream.
Working with over 250 grass-root producer groups and approximately 36,000 artisans all over the country, DASTKAR strongly believes in craft and the alternative sector as a social, cultural and economic force of enormous strength and potential.
Helping craftspeople, especially women, learn to use their own inherent skills as a means of employment, earning and independence is the crux of the DASTKAR programme.

Laila's work with artisans over the last two decades includes the chikan workers of SEWA Lucknow, Kasuti embroiderers in Karnataka, Mahubani painters and sujni quilters in Bihar, regurs in Rajasthan, and Banjara and Rabari mirrorwork craftswomen in Kutch and Maharashtra, pastoral communities displaced by the Tiger Reserve in Ranthambhore, and women victims of terrorist insurgency in Kashmir.

Laila Tyabji writes and speaks regularly on craft, design and social issues. Her book THREADS & VOICES – Behind the Indian Textile Tradition was published by Marg in 2007.

In between, she reads, embroiders and cooks – all to the sound of music!