Bridging ICH communities and governments, NGOs play an integral role in networking and implementing projects to safeguard ICH. The importance of NGOs in ICH safeguarding has been emphasized in the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. In this issue of the ICH Courier, we present three profiles of ICH NGOs working to safeguard ICH in the South Asian sub-region.

All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association (AIACA)


DR. MADHURA DUTTA Executive Director

Though traditional craft skills have been a regular means of earning livelihood in rural India for over twenty million artisans, they presently suffer from declining skills; lack bargaining power, information about and access to new markets, an understanding of contemporary designs and products, access to finance; and have inadequate business and entrepreneurial skills. This situation has led to the devaluation of handcrafted products and a deficiency in sustainable livelihood opportunities. While the Handicraft and Handloom Sector is an Rs.24,300 crore industry contributing Rs.10,000 crore to India’s export earnings annually, it contributes to only 2 percent of the US$400 billion global market for handicrafts.
This sector is still highly unorganized and informal, and marginalized rural artisans in their struggle for sustenance are giving up their traditional skills and migrating to urban areas in search of menial jobs.
The All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association (AIACA), a nationwide network of handicraft and handloom clusters established in 2004, directly addresses the need to empower traditional artisan clusters across India by professionalizing the artisans’ craft-based skills for sustainable enterprise development. AIACA specializes in sustainable craft-based livelihood initiatives through skill development, design innovation and product diversification, entrepreneurship development, direct market access, access to social entitlements and schemes, and policy advocacy. AIACA has a unique national certification program, Craftmark (, that certifies and improves the economic competitiveness of genuine handmade craft processes and products of India and brings under its fold artisans, SHGs, cooperatives, associations, social enterprises, and individual practitioners to gain from its business development and promotional services, thus creating dignity and pride in the practice of traditional crafts. AIACA has over seventy-five Craftmark members (outreach of over 20,000 artisans across twenty-two states of India) and has documented over eighty traditional craft processes practiced in the country.

Janakaraliya—Theatre Of the People

Sri Lanka

NIRIELLA PARAKRAMA BANDARA Artistic/Chief Executive Director

Janakaraliya—Theatre Of the People was formed on 27 March 2003, World Drama Day, as Sri Lanka’s first multicultural theatre group that travels nationally with a mobile theatre.

From inception, Janakaraliya team’s activities were designed to be multicultural and bilingual, a cardinal rule that has been applied to all their creative work. Young people from all parts of the country were brought together and trained in performing arts and social articulation to work in a multicultural
environment. This approach was selected first to prove that even multi-religious communities with two different languages could work and create without any inhibitions, second to bring together such groups to live a multicultural life on and off stage, and third to provide opportunities for youth from different areas to work together.
Janakaraliya’s activities extend to provinces, districts, and villages throughout the country. With the drama team spending over three months in each location, they create a central hub around which several activities take place. Some of these activities include the following:

• promoting community-based applied/forum theatre practices
• producing and performing plays in Sinhala and Tamil
• organizing education, training, and personal development programs for school teachers and students
• building supportive networks in every district and coordinating these networks at the national level

The Janakaraliya drama group’s collapsible mobile theatre can seat up to 600 adults and 800 children so they can have a place enjoy high-quality drama productions as well as have a space to discuss the plays and their relevance in daily lives.
Janakaraliya has extended the space and flexibility of their performances by introducing the New Arena format, which allows audience members to view the play from all four sides, making them feel like they are part of the performance. This is the first theatre of this kind in the Sri Lanka.
Today, almost a decade after its establishment, Janakaraliya has acquired a lot of experience and has learned many lessons that will continue to be valuable as the group embarks on new ventures to further promote their vision of a multicultural and peaceful society.
Find out more about Janakaraliya on the organization’s website,

Nepali Folklore Society



The Nepali Folklore Society (NFS) was established and registered in the District Administrative Office, Kathmandu, in 1995 as a non-political, non-profit organization. The NFS is dedicated to folkloristic scholarship with a special focus on cultural diversity and the safeguarding and promotion of folklore, folk life, and intangible culture through research, education, open dialogue, dissemination, publication, networking, and other related activities. The NFS works toward integrated and sustainable national development in several areas, such as folk cultural tourism and gender and social empowerment and inclusion, by means of exploring the realities facing the various folk communities of the country.
The NFS is guided by one of the state’s directive principles, which emphasizes national unity by maintaining diversity in society through the inclusive promotion of language, literature, script, art, and culture. The NFS has been carrying out various activities to safeguard and promote folk culture. To
be more specific, the NFS was established to carry out the following activities:

• collecting, documenting, and analyzing specimens of folk arts and crafts, folk performing arts, and folk literature from various groups
• periodically organizing workshops, talk programs, and similar events on folklore
• mobilizing folklore experts to carry out research on folklore and folk life
• celebrating folklore festivals by organizing special national programs
• organizing national and international conferences on folklore, folk life, and intangible culture
• demonstrating and disseminating various features of Nepalese folklore, oral traditions, and intangible cultural heritage
• organizing programs to honor individuals who have significantly contributed to safeguarding and promoting Nepalese folklore
• publishing newsletters and journals that deal with the issues related to folklore
• translating the research on the folklore, folk culture, and literature
• working in collaboration with other national and international institutions interested in studying and promoting folklore, folk life, and intangible cultural heritage
• creating awareness about the rich cultural heritage, traditional technology, and indigenous wisdom to enhance the quality of life