A Story of Women's Empowerment

We met Ron at an artisan crafts exhibition in Greater Noida, North India. The city has a population in excess of 100,000 and is located in the Gautam Budh Nagar district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Although it is only 30 kms south-east of the capital city of New Delhi, the chaotic traffic ensures the short distance is rarely travelled in less than two hours.


When we came across their stall, we were mesmerised with the beautiful designs. There was something about them that stood out - a kind of connection to the gold and silver jewellery we hadn’t felt in this country so far. They were all statement pieces, but at the same time somehow understated. They were spared the shiny and reflective elements typical of jewellery from this part of the world. That is perhaps why we were taken aback with what we saw.


Reluctant entrepreneur and Finder: Tuhina

We learnt in that first encounter, that though Ron runs the business, it’s his wife, Tuhina, who is the creative force behind it and the driver of its success. We needed to see more, so we arranged for a meeting at their workshop. This is where we were able to walk through and not only meet Tuhina, but also really get a sense of her setup. Tuhina is a humble and modest entrepreneur and although she has seen success and recognition, she does not identify with being a business person. Her work space is simple, modern and inviting, she has intentionally had a say in how the interior space was designed, from the abundance of light coming through large windows to the use of wood and creative partitions.


A textiles designer by trade, Tuhina started creating clothes and selling them in a local market. She added a range of fair trade fashion accessories to her collection that used, in her words “no jewellery making techniques and a whole lot of creativity”. Clearly, she was on to a winner, as her small ethical jewellery range sold out every time. She decided to increase her very small production team, so taught two ladies from her community who needed the work, how to create her handmade designs. Before long, demand skyrocketed and though she had previously been working with the ladies from her home, she now had to consider finding larger premises.


Detailed work in every handmade piece of jewellery

In the space of just a few years, Tuhina’s designs and techniques have been taught to hundreds of ladies seeking employment; women who haven’t had the chance at an education, or been able to acquire employment skills previously - the new Makers. But this Finder knows the challenges women face. Only the most progressive families will allow the women to work outside of the home and for this reason, Tuhina has created a modern, bright and airy working space, where the women are looked after. She put everything on the line to create a place she loves to create in, so they do too. Food is plentiful and working conditions and rights are equal to the most modern western company.


Sushila and Krishna enjoy the camaraderie experienced at work

There is however also a large group of women for whom getting to a workplace is not possible. Lack of transport, childcare or the restrictions of cultural norms prevent them from earning income outside the home. This necessary flexibility has been accommodated for by a supportive network of women. [refer to article of Women need Flexibility around Income Producing Activities.]

This work equals income and a strong network of women

We were bursting with excitement when we got the chance to visit one of the Maker’s regular meeting places outside the workshop. We felt uplifted with their hospitality and the laughter, jokes and constant chatter were a lovely thing to experience. Did I mention the running stream of selfies?


Knowing what we did by now about Tuhina’s operations, we were impressed at how, by providing this flexibility these women were able to stand tall. Not only did they have equal chances now to earn an income and have a say in their family’s finances, they had also managed to form a strong network of women for support.


Chikku with aunty Manju

Towards the end of our visit, a few of them got ready to pick up each other’s children from school, whilst little Chikku, the nephew of one of the ladies, was being spoilt by the group. It was a lovely conclusion to our afternoon and one we look forward to repeating in the future.


Check out the beautiful handmade pieces of the Magnetic Collection.


Until next time,

Carina


Photo copyright: Finders and Makers


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