Manish Gupta is founder of Matr Boomie, one of the artisan groups where we purchase beautiful handmade pieces. Lorelei went with him to India a couple years ago and was really impressed with the nonprofit his sister started there. Matr Boomie's partner, SETU works directly with the artisans to make sure they receive living wages and have safe work environments. They even provide life necessities as they see the need. Matr Boomie is one reason why we can provide you with great quality products and know your purchase does good!
Guest blogger Manish Gupta: reprinted with permission.
Each month, our Austin team gets together for "TED Talk & Tacos" to share inspiration from leaders around the world. In our last gathering, Matr Boomie Customer Service Rep, Cora Kraverath, chose a Ted Talk video by theater producer Jude Kelly on the importance of giving women the opportunity to tell their own story as well as the story of humanity. During the post-video discussion, we brainstormed ways to better share the stories of the women in India that we work with.
Over 50% of our 900 plus artisan partners are now women. We seek to work with as many women as possible and I want to share more on why.
We firmly believe that Fair Trade applies to marginalized producers who have little or no access to trade. Women artisans in a male dominated society like that in India are further constrained by these societal boundaries:
· Women (especially mothers) are expected to stay at home and care for the children and household
· Women are not given the exposure to participate in trade, travel, or household decision-making
· The majority of women artisans are not educated and lack necessary tools to operate an enterprise
With so many obstacles to face, many women artisans are pushed to the vocational sidelines. Unable to generate independent income of their own, the voice of women in some communities can be silenced. Unfortunately, this results in the further strengthening of gender inequity.
These conditions have made increasing opportunities for women artisans a top priority for Matr Boomie. Connecting women in India with employment options is undoubtably a challenging process. Women are less motivated to start working in the beginning as they recognize the many obstacles they have to overcome. They lack confidence in the value of their art as well as in their production abilities. In spite of free training and tools to get started, many families are skeptical of our intentions in seeking out women for work. It isn’t just a fear of Westerners; even designers on our India team (SETU) have had their share of "interesting" experiences trying to connect women to trade opportunities.
There is a silver lining. Once these women start earning an income of their own and build trust in working with us, their confidence levels are boosted and they start to find their footing as artisans. The pride we feel in their accomplishments is further validated when their products are appreciated in the western market.
One last note: I have been thinking a lot about the role that my wife, Ruchi, plays in our two daughter’s lives. She empowers them daily to trust their voice and let it be heard. Every woman artisan we work with is encouraged to find her voice and use it. We cannot stand by and allow another generation of girls to grows up with mothers whose voices are silenced.
We would love to hear the stories of women in your community so please share them below. Thank you for joining us in empowering women through action and compassion.