After visiting with the female artisans and management at the home décor workshop, I had the opportunity to visit the homes of these artisans, which were on the outskirts of Bhopal. They were very excited for me to come and had been waiting all day for my arrival, so I wrapped my face in a scarf with only my eyes showing (not for religious reasons, but to protect myself from the dust!) and hopped on the back of a motorcycle with the manager’s wife.
This little village on the outskirts of Bhopal had narrow streets, filled with flies and goats, but inside, the women’s homes were clean and as well- kept as possible. The houses were very simple with one to two rooms and they had minimal furniture- a stove and a bed or sometimes just a rug and mats for beds. There was no air-conditioning, only a fan (keep in mind that Bhopal summer temps range from 86-104 degrees), but the women were happy and all offered to serve me tea.
The manager’s wife and I brought them all special sweets and they very modestly accepted them. I gave some to the young children and they tried to share their sweets with me! I listened to the stories, not so different from struggles we hear about in the US, and many related to the difficulty of making ends meet. In one family the father had eye surgery and he had a box of medicine he must take. Another family had a child with mental problems and again they had to spend all their money on medicine. Still another mother and father had been working night and day, just so their child could get an English education, which cost more, but gave the child better opportunities for the future.
I asked one of the women, “If you could have anything in the world, what would you have?” Her answer to me was, "Happiness and prosperity for my children.”
Her words touched me deeply. My eyes started to tear up. I was just so shocked, mostly because the people of this village have so few material items. I’m sure if you asked someone in the US or another first- world country, people would say something money-oriented like a beach house or unlimited wealth.
My heart was so touched and I wanted to give them money to help them find happiness. But, through this one woman, I realized that only giving money is not sustainable nor is fair trade.
What the people of this village really need are good, reliable jobs, medical assistance and general community development. The government provides small food subsidies but the amount they provide is not enough and the quality of food remains very poor. Even the manager said that the women would not feel comfortable taking money - they would prefer to have work.
And so I began creating more jobs for these women, designing belts, headbands and bags that could be embroidered. I realized that I can use my design skills and my connections in the United States to create more work for not just these woman living on the outskirts of Bhopal, India, but for all marginalized women across in India who are struggling just to make ends meet.
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