What if we told you that the fashionable statements you pick from our eco-friendly fashion store are hand-crafted garments made by women from under-privileged quarters of India?
Women in India that hail from marginalised communities are often dealt a bad deal. A problem that is seen in female infanticide, disparity in the women to men ratio all the way up to unequal employment rates; this situation is one that begs immediate attention.
In the midst of these challenges posed, social entrepreneurship today acts as a ray of sunshine, allowing us to empower and provide a platform to some of these women. I was a Sari is one such platform with a similar vision – to embolden the Indian woman in need.
I was a Sari has been providing employment opportunities to the under-privileged women of Mumbai since 2013 by collaborating with NGO’s providing sustainable livelihood opportunities and making, I was a Sari a truly sustainable fashion. With the agenda of impacting women across multiple geographies, we undertook an exercise that helped us to understand grassroot problems better, what the need and aspirations of these women were and so, map out a course of action that is backed by qualitative and quantity data.
…and the eye-opening data we gathered goes like this:
Majority of our employees aged 26-45 have educational qualifications of below the 10th grade. Stressful financial conditions in their families tend to be the top reason for them to take up a job.
In India it is also common for families with limited means to information and education to have larger families with up to 5 children in one household. The pressure to keep family members afloat falls on everyone’s shoulders. Imagine having to shuffle between household chores, welfare and education of your children and sustaining a family without any stable income! This is just the tip of the ice berg for our artisans.
In such a scenario; finding a sense of purpose, a reason to wake up every day and a stable employment opportunity that pays more than minimum wage has aided in improving the lives of our artisans. With their first exposure to a job, comes a new born confidence, improved perception in the community and financial support to family like contribution to household expenses and children’s education.
Our female artisans have high aspirations when it comes to providing education for their children. These personal goals play a significant role in everything we do as an organization.
Our artisans today also claim to have a better standard of living and access to resources. Things that were once a luxury like learning how to open bank accounts and using mobile phones have now started to become basics. What a win-win for everyone at I was a Sari! Our study showed us that we were not only able to impact women on a professional level but also on a deep personal and emotional level, thus improving overall well-being.
They are the real champions
The vigor, drive and enthusiasm our artisans bring to the center every day is testament to the fact that women in India, and anywhere only need a small window of opportunity to show the world the magic they can create.
We’ve built a family of individuals who find motivation in the little things around them, teaching us the importance of smaller joys. We have much to learn from them, making this journey fruitful and enriching for all of us at I was!
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
– Robert Frost
The journey we have undertaken has only just begun. Not only do we want to be able to support them financially, but our future as a business encompasses empowering them with information and access to knowing how to spend their money better.
Educating them further about health, medical plans, how to save and invest money, digital literacy, teaching them about their legal rights and helping them plan a post-retirement life are just some of the areas that we want to fill. The idea being to empower our artisans from a larger perspective that allows them to feel the confidence of being in their skin.
At the end, it takes a team to bring a vision to life
We couldn’t have walked this distance without our founding partner – Community Outreach Programme (CORP), an Indian non-governmental organisation (NGO), supported I was a Sari since its very beginning, acting as an incubator. It is where the first few women got involved in the project and the first collection was designed and produced. Involvement of CORP was crucial to the successful start, as it offers a safe environment to the women and understands the local community, its needs and the cultural nuances.
Since last two years, we have joined hands with another NGO, Animedh Charitable Trust who have helped us in various fields to make this project a success and are proving to be a trusted partner.
The next time you pick an I was a Sari piece, know that you’re contributing to a greater good and fueling a brighter future for someone in need!