Struggling to Provide
Rekha proudly displays her most recent work. Her smile shines as bright as the polished silver and elegant stones of her Catalina Necklace. Her eyes sparkle with inspiration and confidence as she dreams about her family’s future. Rekha’s work as an artisan is helping her make those dreams a reality.
Like many women in India, Rekha did not always have the confidence or courage to pursue her dreams. As a young married mother, she watched her husband struggle to provide for her and their two children.
Overcrowding and lack of job opportunities made finding any kind of employment challenging. When he was able to find reliable employment, their excitement was soon overshadowed by the fact that it required them to move away from close friends and family to an unfamiliar city.
Years later, Rekha recalls their struggle, “Soon after I got married, my husband found a job in another city and we shifted. When my son was born, we were happy and could manage with my husband’s salary. But when we had our second child, it became difficult to manage our home.”
A common struggle for many young families in India, even with a “good” job, wages are often too low to cover basic living expenses. Many employers take advantage of vulnerable women by operating “sweat shops” with unsafe working conditions, long hours, and unfair wages. With no skills or education, Rekha was unable to find safe dignified employment to help her husband provide for their children.
“My husband is a driver and gets a salary, but it’s not enough to take good care of our children. Previously, I was a homemaker and didn’t have the financial independence to take care of my children. All the pressure was on my husband’s shoulders.”
An Investment in Her Skills
As other families in their community faced the same challenges, the women began to share a common bond. They shared their experiences and discoveries in their search for job opportunities. As Rekha listened to their stories, she became excited when she heard about a local fair-trade employer.
“When I heard from the other women how a local artisan community offered a safe place to work and fair payment, I quickly applied to work with them.”
As Rekha began her in-house apprenticeship, she gained much more than new skills and income. After moving away from her closest friends and family, she found herself immediately welcomed as a valued member of her new artisan community.
“When I joined, I did not know anything about my craft. I remember how my fellow artisans spent time with me to teach me how to polish jewellery. Even though I was new and an outsider, I was never treated as one, but was treated like a friend, like a family member.”
An Investment in Her Family's Future
Rekha’s search for income led her to discover and develop new abilities and friendships. These benefits have been priceless to her and her family. Rekha has also gained many practical benefits as an artisan, including fair-trade wages and a safe working environment.
Artisans in Rekha’s community also receive assistance with personal needs, including home repairs, access to safe drinking water, healthcare, and financial management training. These benefits have provided her family with the personal security and financial ability to invest in her children’s future.
“Today, I can take better care of my family and I can send my children to good schools because I have a good job, and I am getting paid a good wage.”
“Without my work as a Trades of Hope artisan, I don’t know if we would be able to send both children to good schools or if we would have the home and life we have today. I also would have been at home and not made the friends I have at my workplace. Our work helps us live our lives comfortably and we get paid to do what we love.”
An Investment in Her Dreams
“I have dreams for my children to complete their education, find good jobs, settle down and have good lives.
I want them to be financially independent like me.“
“I get paid well for something I love doing and this helps pay my children’s school fees and save for the future. This has made me more confident and knowing that I can look after my family has given me peace of mind.”
Now an experienced skilled artisan, Rekha finishes and polishes jewellery made by other artisans. Although she originally joined her artisan community as a way to invest in her family’s financial security, her work has also been a valuable investment in her self-esteem.
“My favorite part of my workday is when I finish polishing and I’m holding the finished jewelry.
I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
Rekha’s work as an artisan has fueled her passion for creating beauty. It has provided her with fresh inspiration and increased financial means to invest in her future.
When asked about her dreams for the future, Rekha’s passion for creating beauty continues to inspire her, “I would also one day like to start my own beauty parlor.”
In a culture where most women are not encouraged to explore their creative talents or pursue business investments, many have lost the confidence and courage to dream. The women in Rekha’s artisan community are encouraged to explore their creative inspirations while investing in their future aspirations. Every necklace they create and sell is an investment in their confidence, courage, and dreams of a brighter future.