Assisi Garments is a women's non-profit in India run by an order of Franciscan nuns. Assisi Garments now offers approximately 300 underprivileged women and nearly 120 physically challenged people in southern India jobs with fair trade wages, health care, and other benefits.
Assisi's garments are made from 100% organic cotton, which is farmed locally by a group of 300 organic cotton farmers in Maharashtar, India. Each garment is lovingly produced from seed to sewing machine. With a deep concern for the environment and people's health, they use only organic cotton grown and picked by hundreds of certified fair trade organic farmers in India for their clothing.
Profits are used to care for abandoned leprosy survivors, treat cancer patients in its hospital that accommodates up to 600 patients, run a boarding school for almost 50 blind children, and another boarding school for 200 deaf children, plus build a clinic for HIV/AIDs care.
Blue Mango Trust is a training and income generation program for village women in Tamil Nadu, South India. Their goal is to provide an infrastructure that gives marginalized women a chance to gain financial self sufficiency in a supportive and healing environment. Blue Mango gives priority to women who have minimal support and few options: women affected by AIDS, loss of a spouse, physically disability, and domestic and sexual abuse. As the women gain confidence, take home good earnings, save for the future and embrace ownership in the program, feelings of hopelessness subside and a sense of empowerment takes root.
Blue Mango has grown from four women with treadle sewing machines in an old silkworm shed to a successful, sustainable business run by and for marginalized women in southern India. The women undergo transformation, like the mango that has a blue tint before ripening to a sweet golden yellow. The use of recycled materials in their products symbolizes their ideals: to find usefulness in cast-off things.
All profits are reinvested to improve business and the quality of life of women like Panchavaranam, part of the Blue Mango family, for over a decade. Widowed at 20 only to lose her newborn daughter to pneumonia a year later, Panchavaranam did not know where to turn. She found work and training at Blue Mango in 2005. "Decisions are based on our needs... they bought a bus because it was difficult to get to work; started free yoga classes because our bodies were tense from the machines. We were not eating well so they created a subsidized canteen for only 4 rupees a meal...In the midst of all my sadness, I have found some peace here."
Community Friendly Movement (CFM Market Linkage)
CFM Market Linkages is a social enterprise based out of New Delhi, India, whose mission is to create wealth for its primary stakeholders, artisan communities at the bottom of the supply chain. It does this by offering quality handmade products to customers at competitive prices by working directly with the community to reduce the number of intermediaries in the chain.
CFM offers handcrafts from 22 producer communities in India. The products are unique and carefully crafted by skilled artisans from all over India, who have kept the glorious traditions of folk and indigenous arts and crafts alive. They create products using a wide range of materials such as leather, metals, wood, bone, glass, cotton, silk, and handmade paper.
CFM has been able to increase the artisans’ wages as well as the amount of days worked by them. CFM works closely with the artisans in the development of products that the market needs. By connecting the artisans directly to markets, CFM has been able to create an impact in the artisans lives and their communities.
Over a decade ago, Anita and Shalabh Ahuja left their comfortable life and careers to launch an environmentally savvy idea that helps reduce trash in the city while helping poor women find opportunity. With their life savings and extreme dedication, the couple launched an amazing concept that started as a 'green' project but quickly developed into much more. Conserve India creates purses and other products from recycled plastic bags gathered from trash heaps and is a source of hope for low-caste women who are desperate and homeless, giving them the opportunity to grow through education and employment opportunity. Conserve now employs and empowers over 300 low-caste women who were without employment opportunities before the non-profit group was established.
Conserve has developed an impressive system of production for their products. Women gather shopping bags from the dumps of New Delhi and bring them back to the shop where the plastic is thoroughly cleaned, dried, and then fused together by a process developed by Shalabh. The fusion process creates a durable fabric that is sewn into an array of accessories ranging from bags to day planners.
The women of Conserve have refused to leave their lives to fate. In India's extreme poverty, many are forced to sift through the rubble to find shelter or food to survive. Conserve has created some hope among that urban waste; because of Conserve, many of these women now have a greater potential for a better living, an education and a new life.
Destiny Foundation, based in Kolkata, India, was founded with the mission to end slavery and sex trafficking through the economic empowerment of women. The Foundation comprises two divisions – Destiny, the charitable wing, and Reflection, the social business wing – which work in tandem with each other. Their aim is not simply to save young women from trafficking or sexual exploitation, but to make certain that they are not compelled to go back into the trade due to social and economic pressures. To achieve that end, Destiny Reflection recruits women from shelter homes and brothels, giving them training and employment opportunity. All their employees have been subjected to trafficking or are at high risk of falling prey to it.
Their social entrepreneurship program strives to provide girls from underprivileged and vulnerable backgrounds a steady means of employment. The women’s stint with the Foundation begins with on-the-job training conducted at Destiny, where they are taught stitching, and embroidery among other skills. Once adequately trained, they’re employed in Reflection, becoming a part of a formal work environment. Their products are handmade by their employees – a variety of bags, fashion accessories, stationery items, kantha and household furnishings made from silk sari fabrics and block-printed organic cotton. Proceeds from the sale of these products support the Foundation’s activities and ensure a steady income for the employed women.
Destiny Reflections has been able to restore 100 lives, employed 75 women and provide them with fair wages, housing, health care and medical insurance support.
Ethereal Crafts produces beautiful handicrafts made by women artisans based in North India, following a blend of traditional techniques of production with a modern touch. Ethereal Crafts started to help and support marginalized and disadvantaged producers who had great skills but no resources to reach the right market for their products. Today, Ethereal Crafts directly supports around 121 artisans.
Ethereal Crafts has five different production lines: jewelry, home goods, handmade paper, bags and apparel.
Ethereal Crafts works with indigenous artisans and crafts communities to support livelihoods and income generation while producing, developing and designing exquisitely beautiful made up products for the marketplace.
Freeset is located in Sonagacchi, the largest and most infamous sex district in Kolkata, India. Within a few square miles, more than 10,000 women (mostly trafficked) stand in line selling their bodies to thousands of men who visit daily. Freeset works with over 190 women to set them free from the sex trade through their fair trade business offering employment, safety, and dignity. Their goal is to see the 10,000 sex workers in their neighborhood empowered with the choice of leaving the profession they never chose in the first place.
Freeset makes quality jute bags and organic cotton t-shirts, teaching unskilled women to sew at a quality acceptable for the export market. Some could barely use a pair of scissors and in those early days the average daily output was less than two bags each. These problems have been overcome with training, a lot of patience and quality control systems. While many of the women are still not the fastest sewers, the business now produces around 1000 bags a day.
Handmade by women rescued from sex traffickers in Kolkata, each tee tells the story of their journey to freedom. These women artisans earn a living wage and have the opportunity to become literate. They lead by example, becoming role models for their daughters and breaking the cycle of poverty. Every woman who finds freedom through Freeset also brings freedom to her family. They find hope for a brighter future and the means to make it a reality. As the business has grown, a positive community has emerged calling itself the "Freeset family.” This family not only supports its own members, but impacts on the wider community. The common understanding is "we're in this together".
Godavari Delta Women's Lace Cooperative
Created in 1983, Godavari Delta Women's Lace Cooperative is situated in a small town called Narsapur which is on the west bank of River Godavari. The cooperative provides work for over 650 women living in villages throughout the Godavari Delta. Having a sustainable income helps the women combat the poverty, caste system discrimination, and the economic impact of natural disasters that are all too common in the Godavari River Basin area.
The cooperative provides a market vehicle for the lace making skills that the women of the Godavari River basin have been perfecting for over 100 years. The women produce bags, hats, blouses, toys, necklaces, cushion covers and Christmas decorations.
The cooperative has introduced savings plans and group insurance, adult education centers, and periodical eye checkups along with glasses if needed. They frequently hold meetings in rural areas advocating anti-dowry system and condemning dowry system. They are working on providing medical aid for all the members and their children.
Made by Survivors
Made By Survivors was founded by Sarah Symons and John Berger in 2005. John and Sarah are married and together have built Made By Survivors from the ground up, using their life savings and selling their house to fund the start up costs. Today they operate programs serving hundreds of sex trade survivors in India, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand. Most exciting is the fact that the survivors who joined the programs a few years ago are now managing the programs, traveling all over India and Nepal as trainers and mentors to newly rescued girls.
They train survivors and create jobs in highly respected professions, with high wages that develop business and entrepreneurial skills. One of the most successful programs is the jewelry program.
Their survivor-metalsmiths are breaking gender barriers, earning a middle class wage, rescuing others, and uplifting their families and communities. They are earning more than their peers, more than their husbands, more than they themselves could ever have imagined. They couldn’t imagine any future at all when they were living in brothels. Now their dreams are limitless! “
Three best friends with a serious case of wanderlust set out on an around-the-world adventure and landed in Mother India for four months. Enamored with the people, markets, and colorful textiles, they vowed to make the country a part of their life story. This love affair with India has evolved into Mata Traders – a design driven, fair trade brand helping to end global poverty and inspire ethical companies and consumers to change the fashion industry. Made by artisans in India and Nepal, their colorfully original designs are now sold in 50 states and 12 countries, and provide a stable source of income for families in some of the world’s poorest communities.
Mata Traders creates handmade apparel and jewelry; with an emphasis on 'hand.' Some items are sewn with pedal-powered machines due to frequent power-outages, but the producers also spin their own thread, weave cloth, embroider or use traditional wood block printing techniques to decorate fabrics. Each individual woman completes an entire dress, rather than work assembly-line-style; thus when shown a catalog of Mata Trader products, they proudly point to the ones they themselves made.
Mata Traders designs and works with women's cooperatives that are democratically structured, providing benefits to women such as childcare, annual medical check-ups, overtime pay -- even retirement plans. Every link in the production chain is completely managed by the women, and many use their involvement in the co-op as a springboard to becoming socially and politically active in their larger community.
MarketPlace: Handwork of India grew out of a very small-scale venture organized in 1980 to help three low-income women in Mumbai, India. At that time Pushpika Freitas and Lalita Monteiro founded the Indian nonprofit SHARE and began teaching the women to sew patchwork quilts by hand, work they could do at home without having to pay for childcare or equipment. This small experiment attracted attention from other women in the neighborhood. By 1992 the artisans numbered over 120. Today MarketPlace works with over 400 artisans organized into 11 cooperatives.
Economic development is only the first step in the MarketPlace: Handwork of India philosophy of social change. When a woman is able to earn a living and feed her family, her worth within the family increases significantly. Developing leadership for social change is their central goal. As the women become empowered economically, socially, and personally, they grow to be leaders. They begin questioning age-old traditions that hold women back and they work to improve the quality of life for their families and communities. MarketPlace's model includes many opportunities for learning and experience related to running a business. By organizing and managing their own cooperatives, the artisans learn about design, production, quality control, and finances. Other programs are platforms for personal development which will help the artisans to reach their full potential.
Purpose Jewelry is handcrafted by trafficking survivors at the iSanctuary center in Mumbai, India. In 2007, International Sanctuary (iSanctuary) was created to address the many needs of these young women through holistic care and empowerment. The women are placed in mentoring programs, and provided with an education, medical care, counseling and employment in order to prepare them for the future.
Survivors at iSanctuary's center in Mumbai, India are taught artisan jewelry skills. All jewelry is prepared, packaged, and shipped by survivors rescued in Orange County, California. Purchasing with Purpose empowers these young women as they play a critical role in every step of the process, from handcrafting the jewelry to shipping the jewelry.
Every purchase provides employment, job training, and the financial stability survivors need in order to properly provide for themselves and their families. Each young woman who graduates from the program at iSanctuary is equipped with the skills and knowledge that she needs to enter the job market with confidence. These survivors are given the opportunity to follow their dreams and achieve goals that once seemed impossible. No longer hopeless, these young women are now empowered and able to live free from poverty and exploitation.
Pushpanjali Fair Trade
Pushpanjali is a fair trade organization based in Agra, India. Founded in 1982, it started with 5 producers; over the years the number of producers has increased considerably. Their mission is to improve the living conditions of local craft producers by empowering them through sustainable work, fair wages, profit sharing and also by providing credit.
Pushpanjali produces scarves, bags, accessories, holiday ornaments, nativities and photo frames. Promoting the cultural wealth and identity and recognizing local producers craft mastery is also at the heart of what Pushpanjali does, as a key enabler for producers’ empowerment. The Pushpanjali scarf production team is composed of 12 women all living in the same area of Agra, in Ajam Para. They started working with Pushpanjali 3 years ago, and got a chance to generate an income by themselves, which is extremely rare in that area for women. They are in charge of quality control for the scarves, of cutting the extra threads and knotting the scarves. When orders are there, they work every weekday while their children are at school, representing 6 to 7 months of full time work for them.
Pushpanjali supports educational and medical programs in rural villages, allowing girls to attend school who otherwise could not afford it. When being asked what Pushpanjali did for them, the increased financial autonomy comes at first. With the fair wage they receive for their work, the Ajam Para women are able to contribute to their family needs, especially with clothes. They have good working conditions, and if they have one request for improvement, it is to ask for business growth and increased orders, so they can increase further their contribution to their family livelihoods.
Tara Projects is a fair trade organization based in New Delhi, India. The project seeks to help craftspeople gain awareness, rights and human dignity in order to combat poverty. Tara provides women and men with economic security through regular work at living wages, craft training and marketing services. Founded in the early 1970s with the goal of providing avenues of economic growth to economically disadvantaged artisans in Delhi, Tara has become a pillar of the fair trade community in India.
Tara Projects initiated a livelihood generation program, a tailoring center for the young women in the community and a free tuition center for unprivileged children. “Mahila Vikas Samooh” was formed in 2008 as a “Woman Development Group”. According to the meaning of the word the women are working collectively to earn their livelihood through making jewelry. Over time the organization provided further training to improve the skills of the artisans and therefore the quality of the products. Initially the group was started with seven women. Now it directly employs nineteen women who work on economic empowerment.
Since its inception, Tara Projects has been committed to fighting exploitation, poverty, and illiteracy of artisans who are subjected to the social injustices of unfair trade practices. Besides training artisans in design, production and marketing of handicrafts, Tara also funds and maintains several adult literacy and vocational training centers, and has spearheaded numerous campaigns for ecological, environmental and female educational issues, and against child and bonded labor, illiteracy, and unfair trade practices.
Wanting to help at risk women in their community while pursuing their heritage working with traditional textiles, the Sathwara Family began making bags and accessories from recycled sari pieces in the late 1990s. Located in the northern New Delhi area, this family-run artisan group provides training and employment for women who would otherwise have trouble being hired.
The gorgeous bags and accessories that they make are handcrafted from recycled and discarded saris – the traditional dress of many women in India. They tailor and transform these repurposed textiles into high-quality accessories, embellished with an arrangement of gorgeous sari pieces.
World Finds works directly with their artisan groups – which include a combination of WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization) members, small families of artisans, and women’s cooperatives. They are all talented, low-income artisans who are paid a livable wage and have safe working conditions, access to healthcare and childcare, and ongoing training and education. They have been working with many of these groups for over a decade, and during that time they have seen many artisans lift themselves out of poverty and even launch their own successful businesses, strengthening the entire community.
WORK+SHELTER focuses on women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation. They provide women in India with fair-trade work and, should they need it, a safe place to live with their dependents. Each shelter has a physical location where activities are centralized. At the pilot, Work+Shelter New Delhi, women enter a paid training program where they are taught skills to create high-quality products for the export market. The only entry prerequisite is demonstrated economic need. When the woman completes training and begins to produce for the export market, her pay is increased.
The women produce toys, t-shirts and bags. Work+Shelter custom prints or custom dyes their products according to the buyers’ needs.
The women are paid whether or not the products sell. Work+Shelter regularly confers with the women to ensure their other key needs are met. At Work+Shelter New Delhi they are currently assisting one stakeholder to find medical support for her kidney problems. They also actively support the women to ensure that their children are in school. They are aware of each woman’s unique challenges and actively work with them to overcome them together.