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Puppets

Why is the World Bank Doing This?

Melissa Williams's picture

This question was asked ---- out of surprise, confusion, and even a little bit of suspicion --- at the launch of JIYO! --- an artisan owned brand ---- at the New Delhi Office during April 1-3. The crowds of artists, art patrons, buyers, hotel chain owners, parliamentarians, diplomats, Bank staff, and other shoppers milled about the kiosks of artists from rural areas, and many contemplated this. The answer is quite simple: from a rural poverty reduction perspective. India is home to the largest population of rural poor in the world, larger even than all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Cultural industries are the second largest employer in rural India. Cultural industries are also a US$100 billion global market. It's clear what the Bank could and should do in this area. Linking rural artists to this massive global market creates opportunities for both growth and poverty reduction, and it comes with the bonus of preserving the India's rich cultural heritage.

When people think of rural development, they mostly think of agriculture, but there is so much more to "rural" than people assume. Many of the traditional, heritage art forms --- also known as cultural industries --- have been kept alive in rural areas. Too often relegated as "quaint", these artists have been relegated to the informal sector, a poverty trap that leads many to abandon their art. JIYO! --- a JSDF-funded project in India that is linked to several rural livelihoods investment projects --- has been turning the typical view of rural arts upside down.