Artisans from India
Channapatna Handcrafts is located in a quaint southern India town. The artisans use a special skill called lac-turnery, a 200-year-old craft traced to the reign of a royal ruler who invited artisans from Persia to train the local artisans in making wooden toys. The process of shaping and coloring the wood is carried out on a lathe, which is a machine that turns the piece of wood while using a sharp tool to shape it. Artisans then apply lacquer of bright and vibrant colors made by mixing natural and nontoxic vegetable dyes.
These lac-turnery products are carved out of hale wood, also called ivory wood, a local species of tree that grows widely throughout South India. Usually the entire tree is not felled and the tree grows back. Thus materials used in the craft are natural and eco-friendly.
In the last decade, with no proper support in marketing, the number of Channapatna artisans has declined considerably, and the craft was dying. With help from WorldCrafts, the artisans of Channapatna have been able to reach the global market, thereby helping the sales of handmade products and improving the livelihoods of the artisans and their families. WorldCrafts has empowered the artisans by reviving the craft, providing better working conditions and sustainable incomes, and creating employment opportunities in the community.
In cities such as Kolkata (Calcutta), India, many young girls are forced into the slavery of the sex trade because of dire poverty. Puja, for example, was especially at risk because she had lost both parents by the time she was a young teen. But because the ConneXions artisan group was working in her community she was able to avoid even entertaining the idea of looking for oppressive or shameful jobs. She and other young women now earn a fair wage and receive vocational training at ConneXions, freeing them and their families from the vicious cycle of poverty.
Many girls and even women in India are viewed as burdens to their families. But through Ergon Handicrafts, women are given the opportunity to be seen as contributors to their families rather than burdens. Ergon is a handicrafts center based in Jaipur, India, that seeks to empower women with job skills, income, and confidence through fair-trade employment. Most of the women who work for Ergon are uneducated and extremely poor. Previously they had never been taught a special skill outside of housework. As they learn to make journals and cards, their confidence grows and many realize for the first time that they are valuable. This realization often softens their hearts so they are more receptive to learn of eternal matters.
With the income Nunni earns at Ergon, she is able to provide for her family with more nutritious meals. Salma is able to ensure that her daughter will receive an educations. Zareena is able to help pay rent for her husband’s rickshaw so he can continue earning money for their family. When Asma comes to the Ergon center each day, she is given a break from her role as the sole housekeeper for 6 other members of her home. Tabasum uses her earnings to help her family pay down a large debt they have accumulated. Mary is able to bless and care for other women in the slum. By investing in the lives of these women, Ergon Handicrafts is creating holistic change in northern India.
Each Freeset bag is more than just a stitched piece of fabric, it tells a story of freedom. For hundreds of women who were trapped in India’s sex trade it brings freedom from a life that robbed them of dignity and hope. At Freeset women are given the opportunity to choose a new job and regain control of their lives in a caring community. Making this bag is a part of their journey to freedom. To the thousands still trapped by prostitution, they are a symbol of hope.
In some villages of India, a woman may not remarry, even if her husband has passed away. This tradition forces women to become the sole provider for their children, even though they don’t have any marketable skills. Godavari Women, a group of artisans that creates crocheted lace items, allows women to completely depend on their artisan skills for their income. They also gain medical insurance, first aid, eye checkups, and free eyeglasses. Godavari Women’s dream is to teach and train all 25,000 artisans living in this area to use and hone their talents.
Within each stitch of the Himalayan Tapestry artisans’ handiwork is a story of illiteracy, abuse within marriage, and culturally conditioned gender discrimination. While these Indian women suffer quietly, they are expected to carry the financial burden of their families. The women come to Himalayan Tapestry with little education and no basic skills and learn to quilt, tailor, read, and manage money. Working with this organization not only enables women to make money from their new talents, it also enables them to receive crisis counseling, which brings financial and emotional comfort to their troubled lives.
Love Calcutta Arts
The scarring influence of the sex trade does not affect just one generation in India. Despairing mothers often leave a legacy of poverty and prostitution to their daughters, who in turn carry on because they know no other lifestyle. Enter Love Calcutta Arts. Their handicrafts unit enables young women to support themselves with dignity and help their mothers leave the sex industry. These hardworking women make high-quality handmade paper products, including journals and cards, in a loving environment where they learn of their heavenly Father’s love for them.
Noah’s Ark is an innovative network of 100 fair-trade artisan groups, representing 600 individuals, across India. Artisans work with a variety of materials, including wood, paper, and metal, to create contemporary products using traditional methods. All workshops are committed to providing sustainable income in an environment of honesty and integrity. As Noah’s Ark grows it has been able to support schools for artisan children and provide filters for clean water.
Mary grew up in an orphanage in India with a bleak outlook for her future. When time came for her to leave the orphanage she was deceived by an offer of marriage and found herself instead in a brothel. She escaped and tried to commit suicide multiple times, the last time by eating glass. A member of Rahab’s Rope artisan group found her dying in the street and brought her to the center. Many young women like Mary have found a lifeline at Rahab’s Rope, where they discover new opportunities as they make handcrafted jewelry.
Sewa Ashram in India exists to help transform the lives of the poor economically, physical, emotionally, socially, and spiritually, Amar Chand was living on the streets—addicted to drugs, broke from gambling, and seriously ill. He was battling spinal tuberculosis in a hospital when Sewa Ashram found him and moved him to a rehabilitation center. The disease left Amar paralyzed, but he found physical and spiritual healing through Sewa Ashram.
The young women of Shelano have come from the slums in the south of Kolkata, India. With their background and limited education, finding a job is difficult, if not impossible. By purchasing their handmade products, you are not only getting a fairly traded product, you are giving a woman an opportunity to take care of her family and invest in the future she now has. Each kantha is unique, made by a unique woman with her unique story. As it goes from her hands to yours, you are helping a woman earn some money of her own and contributing to her confidence and well-being.
Vijaya Deepam Trust
Vijaya Deepam Trust works with young women in their early 20s to mid-30s in India. These women come from impoverished backgrounds, and the money they earn through Vijaya Deepam Trust allows them to feed their children and pay for their education. All profits made through the sale of their products are shared among the women. Some of the women’s spouses are addicted to alcohol, leaving them to be the family’s primary providers.
As a result of globalization and ever-changing markets, Indian artisan groups are challenged to take the skills native to their various castes and trades and utilize them in more diverse and marketable ways. Many must educate and provide proper medical care for their families on only a few dollars a day. Village Artisans helps men and women fulfill their potential through their talents in creating beautiful handmade jewelry, scarves, bags, stationery, carved wood, and natural soap products. As a result, these talented and now empowered families are able to meet basic practical needs and provide hope for the next generation.
White Rainbow Project
The White Rainbow Project is transforming lives by sharing love with the widows of India. They provide vocational training, food, and medical care to destitute widows in Vrindavan, India. Vrindavan, known as the City of Widows, is home to more than 20,000 widows who have been abandoned by their families. White Rainbow Project is recycling hope for these widows by helping them create beautiful handmade products out of donated saris and old magazines. Recycling takes on a whole new meaning, as this is one of the only options widows have to support themselves. They have been told that they have “bad karma” and are blamed for the death of their husband. They are shunned, exploited, and denied any sense of dignity. Earning their own money gives them freedom to choose their own destiny, many for the first time in their life.