I'm pondering these questions, and many others, as I am preparing to go back to India, where I have been volunteering for the past 12 years. Each trip, (every 2 or so years), I am challenged with the same questions.... is what I'm doing making a difference to one girl or one women's life? And how will my interaction with this community change them, either positively or not?
I am without a doubt, changed by my visits and interactions. But it shouldn't stop with me. I am interested in social changes.
This trip my travelling partner had hoped to have more indepth conversations with the NGO directors about a sustainable & fairtrade business model. The idea being that by providing local women with sewing & tailoring instruction, and providing new patterns and ideas for products appealing to western women, an online market could be established. We feel excited and believe the unique opportunity lies in the beautiful south Indian sarees and textiles. Yet, as we have been preparing, we've been challenged by our own thoughts.
Is the business going to be profitable? What are the costs of establishing this in India? Will Etsy be the right platform for these transactions, if English is not the local womens first language? What about the customers expectations? How difficult will it be to help the women of and isolated rural district understand the desires of the identified customer base? Will,our three week visit be adequate or just a start?
The big picture and dream, is that through selling beautiful handmade creations to western women, the NGO will be able to firstly provide a fair pay to their craftspeople, and make extra funds to support their girls hostel and education program.
While I believe these ideas are well intentioned, I am concerned that it's our vision not theirs... and that first principle of our practice should be of empowerment. I am hoping we can raise the ideas in a respectful manner and find out if there's some way we can work with the NGO to achieve something sustainable.
|Bags commissioned for a womens conference in Sydney were loved by participants.|
Here's a link to our GoFundMe crowdfunding site.... All Welcome