Rishilpi Handicrafts Limited


Story of Rishilpi Handicrafts

Rishilpi Handicrafts, a nonprofit, nongovernmental development organization in southwest Bangladesh, was founded to improve the lives of people of the "untouchable" Rishi caste.
“Rishilpi” is formed from two Bengali words, “Rishi,” denoting the caste, and “shilpi,” meaning artist or craftsman. Rishi, traditionally leather workers, for centuries have lived at the margins of Bengali society. Generally landless, with no easy access to schools, many struggled in a continual search for work to survive. By giving these artisans education and employment, Rishilpi helps them breach barriers confronting them in society. In addition to income generation, Rishilpi conducts relief and development work in rural Bangladesh communities. Benefits to artisans include education sponsorship, health care, micro-credit savings programs and early marriage prevention support for their adolescent daughters.

Rishilpi was founded in 1977 by two Italian missionaries to improve the lives of the Rishi caste. More than 1,580 artisans make and market crafts through Rishilpi. Embroidery, wheat straw, palm leaf and jute sections provide work for poor women from rural villages who have been widowed or abandoned. Some women twist jute into cord at home and others knot macramé crafts at the center. Men at the Rishilpi leather center, many of them disabled, fashion wood and leather products. 

Ten Thousand Villages purchases palm baskets, date leaf coasters, wheat straw paper cards and nativities from Rishilpi Development Projects. Ten Thousand Villages have purchased products from Rishilpi Development Projects since 1983.

  • Rishilpi was founded in 1977 to improve the lives of the "untouchable" Rishi caste.
  • Rishilpi presently employs more than 2,000 artisans in southwest Bangladesh.
  • Artisans make products from wheat straw, palm leaf, jute, leather and wood.
  • Artisans primarily work from their own homes. Rishilpi also has two workshops, for leather and for wheatstraw artisans.
  • Ten Thousand Villages carries wheatstraw cards and nativities, leather boxes and bags, palm leaf baskets and bags, and Karchupi embroidery from Rishilpi.