I had always thought that to avoid exploitation, women should be employed outside of their home. To be seen is to be safe, right? Well this changed for me when I visited a group of Makers in a village on the outskirts of New Delhi. This amazing group of women produce the pieces in one of my favourite collections - intricate jewellery formed with hundreds of tiny pieces, all knotted together by hand. I was thrilled to be invited into their home and shortly after I arrived, found myself sitting among them in a small main room of the family home. It was very hot outside, so I welcomed the cool air from the little fan that offered a vague cool breeze. As I sat on the floor mats with them, it didn't take long for a circle of chatter to develop, with laughter, conversation and chai tea flowing.
During this conversation, I learnt that these women - through a Finder - were taught specific jewellery making skills that allowed them to earn an income and contribute to their family financially. Most importantly, they were provided the flexibility they needed to do this work from home and fit this around their family commitments. This made them feel equal, valuable and allowed them to stand tall in their community. By earning their own money, they felt they had a right to opinions on how the family income should be distributed, including allocating the necessary funds for food, education and care for their children.
But why couldn't they just do this work outside of their homes? Establish a routine of going to the same place every day with other workers and all the equipment they might need? Well, it's not that easy. In many places - such as this busy village on the outskirts of New Delhi - road infrastructure is patchy and demand for public transport outstrips supply. Childcare is either unavailable or unaffordable and not all women have extended families that are able to help. These women face the same challenges that we do, but with an extra degree of difficulty due to societal and cultural roles and expectations. Many women are constrained by family responsibilities, while others are bound by social or religious norms, which do not allow them to work outside of the home once married.
According to a World Bank 2012 report, “women also bear disproportionate responsibility for unpaid work, devoting up to 3 hours more a day to housework than men and up to 10 times more to care for children or the elderly.”
After learning this, I realised some women really don't have much choice when it comes to the work they do and where they do it. Their responsibilities mean they are tied to the family home, even for reasons as simple as travel – not being able to physically get to work due to distance or needing to care for children while they’re away. The women I met were able to bring work into their home, allowing them to manage their other responsibilities. They could take on as much or as little as they could fit in. To avoid feeling isolated, they would occasionally come together to work in one of their homes, bringing their little ones along and enjoying this ‘extended family’ and the friendship that comes with it.
The memory of the time I spent with the women in that warm and engaging room in Delhi will stay with me. It was great to see the sense of camaraderie between them and their support for each other. All whilst making some of the most intricate and delicate pieces of jewellery I will ever wear.
And then it was time to collect children from school, so the small group of women charged with that on the day, got up ready to leave, whilst the rest continued to work on their beautiful craft. Flexibility is extremely important for women everywhere, particularly the ones I met that day In Dehli. I'm proud to say that Finders and Makers supports work environments designed this way. Businesses driven by women Finders who create flexible workplaces to empower our skilled women Makers.
After all, real queens rule together by fixing each others crowns.
Until next time,
Photo acknowledgements in order of appearance:
© Loren Joseph, © Finders and Makers, © Aravind Kumar, © Igor Ovsyannyko, © Finders and Makers, © Finders and Makers