Palam Rural Centre (“People’s Association for Leather and Allied Manufacturing”) offers employment opportunities to people of the marginalized Harijan community in a village in Tamil Nadu region, southeastern India. In the Tamil language, Palam also means “bridge”; Palam Rural Centre seeks to build a “bridge” to the markets of the rest of the world. With money from product sales, Palam has purchased land and homes for artisans (ownership traditionally unavailable to lower castes) and built a school for artisans’ children. Other artisan benefits include health care and retirement pensions. Palam artisans see education of their children as the key to hope and change. Through this work, Palam Rural Centre is providing dignity and security to artisans and helping to break down caste walls in society.
Started in 1978 by David Edmunds, Palam Rural Centre was founded to improve the lives of people of the Harijan community in Tamil Nadu. Traditionally leather workers, they found little market for their products. Very poor and often exploited, they did not own land, suffered from illiteracy and ill health, and were underpaid working as seasonal agricultural laborers for large landowners. In the 1980s, the leather market declined with the rise in synthetic materials and with multinational corporations moving into Indian markets. After several years of experimenting with soap making, Palam Rural Centre diversified into vegetable oil-based soap production. It also continues to develop new designs of leather items.
Ten Thousand Villages purchases scented soaps, suede bags and leather personal accessories from Palam Rural Centre. Ten Thousand Villages has purchased products from Palam Rural Centre since 2001.
- Artisan Products