A Year in Reflection: 2012

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As the New Year begins to unfold, I cannot help but reflect on Anchal’s incredible growth and accomplishments in 2012. What began as a small project conceived in a RISD studio in 2009 has grown into the incredible life changing organization it is today.

Last year Anchal was named Dining for Women’s featured program in October, granted Google’s Alumni Impact Award, launched the Didi Connection campaign with actress America Ferrera, and celebrated our partner’s feature in the documentary, Half the Sky. We also made tremendous progress in India. We brought 15 part-time artisans onto full-time status, 4 artisans were promoted to leadership positions, the project launched our educational workshop series, and activated the children’s scholarship fund.

Though highlighting our year’s successes is important, it is also imperative that we remember the challenges. Starting a grassroots non-profit like Anchal presents consistent roadblocks. Not only did our team face professional trials, many of us faced personal challenges as well. I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma just over a year ago and underwent 6 months of chemotherapy. Now officially cancer free, I am convinced that channeling my energy into Anchal during treatment helped me arrive at the point where I am today. The personal challenges did not end there, Devon’s mother was also diagnosed with cancer last year and our team in India lost a very dear friend and employee, Omkar.

After facing the last year’s trials, I have come to recognize the most valuable lesson, perseverance. As they say, nothing good comes easy, and our struggles have shaped Anchal into the resilient organization it is today. During my personal cancer battle and questioning Anchal’s future in the beginning of 2012, I realized that it was all worth it this fall when we launched the Didi Connection. I truly believe that Anchal has created a global sisterhood passionate about making a difference for women across continents and seas. Its effectiveness stems from the realization that all women are sisters and that we can do something to change a fellow sister’s life today.

None of what we have achieved this year would have been possible without the support of our amazing team, volunteers and family of supporters like you. You have given your dollars, love, words of encouragement, and so much more to our organization and artisans. Thank you!

It has been an incredible experience to share our journey with you and we are glad you have come with us. We cannot wait to see what this year has in store.

-Colleen

Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey

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On December 16th in Delhi, India, a 23-year old female student and her male companion boarded what they thought was a public city bus. The unauthorized driver and his five friends were the only other people aboard, and they are now being charged for the brutal assault, rape, and murder of the woman. The details of the attack were beyond gruesome, and this case has sparked public outrage in India as people have taken to the streets by the tens of thousands to demand justice and equality. As sickening as this individual case is, it has thrust women’s issues to the forefront and has forced India to search internally for why the rape, violence, and sexual assault on women is something to be put up with rather than reprimanded and prevented. Here are some of the issues that one will find.

Patriarchy – India is a deeply patriarchal society, and women are viewed as lesser value than men. As proof of this, sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are widely practiced and have skewed the gender ratio in India significantly. This can have dire consequences, as having fewer women causes increased trafficking for forced marriage and prostitution – and so the cycle of abuse continues. As an article in The Guardian put it, “There is therefore a huge need for a change of attitudes across society starting, with how families regard and protect their women and how old traditional societies can be weaned away from male domination. That will take a long time.”

Blame the victim – It is common in India for the media and government officials to blame the recurrence of rape on the decisions of the victim. For example, a state legislator from Rajasthan suggested that one way to stop rapes would be to change girls’ school uniforms from skirts to pants. Many have also said that women should know better than to be out so late at night. Since women are now becoming more economically equal with men in India, they are showing new independence in their careers and liberated private lives – yet they should be covering their legs and staying inside after dark? These are the types of conflicting messages that are finally being questioned.

The “Shame” factor – Due to the patriarchal attitudes and traditional caste hierarchies present in India, when a woman is raped she is viewed by society as used, ruined, and a disgrace to her family. As a result, sexual assault is often minimalized and goes unreported. In 2011, 80,000 rape cases were reported in Great Britain, population 62 million, where 24,000 rape cases were reported in India, population 1.24 billion – You do the math.

On that note, the victim’s father bravely decided to release her name to the public yesterday, with this statement: “My daughter didn’t do anything wrong. She died while protecting herself. I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.”

Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey. She is a symbol for this movement, but one of many. And we can only hope that her case has been the desperately needed spark that can ignite true, deep, thorough change in gender equality in India. Time will tell.

-Marina

 

Sources:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/31/mourning-for-rape-victim-recasts-new-years-eve-in-india/

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=168339419

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20910661

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/our-voices/the-foreign-desk/gang-rape-case-reveals-the-real-india-and-the-glimmers-of-change-8436922.html?origin=internalSearch

http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC130103-0000010/The-larger-fight-for-womens-rights-in-India

We Want to Hear from YOU

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We have received wonderful responses from our supporters about giving & receiving Anchal products this holiday season. We wanted to celebrate this growing sisterhood by sharing photos of YOU, our sisters. So if you gave or received a didi scarf this holiday season, email us a photo and we will feature you on our blog.

Because of you, we are changing lives. Thank you for all of your support!

Top 10 Posts of 2012

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Special thank you to YOU, our readers! Without your faithful support, this blog would not be possible. Also thank you to our incredible blog writers who not only wrote beautiful work, but helped us shape the blog into what it is today. You rock!

Here are the top 10 most visited posts of 2012.

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1. An Exclusive Interview with Indian Designer and Illustrator Shilo Shiv Suleman

“For Sex Workers, I think art can be deeply transforming and healing. Nothing has healed me, no “guru” has taught me, like my art has.” -Shilo Shiv Suleman

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2. What We Love: Collage

“We’re falling in love all over again with collage – paper collage, fabric collage and anything and everything in between. Artists far and wide, widely recognized and little known have used this technique for ages (the impulse to collect, recombine and transform draws on something deeply human, I think). Here is a sampling of what’s possible when you grab some left over fabric or paper, thread a needle or get down and dirty with a glue stick…”

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3. What does Sisterhood Mean to You?

“And the most important thing [sisterhood] taught me is that this love can be shared. I have come to see how easily sisterly love can thrive within all of our female friendships.”

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4. People with Sisters are Happier

“I’m inspired by examples of sisters who take care and love each other. I’m also inspired by women who are driven by a sense of sisterhood and feel that all women are their sisters. In my experience in India, Anchal’s artisans showed me the spirit of sisterhood with their affection and desire to make me a part of their community.”

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5. Have You Heard What’s Coming?

“If you haven’t heard yet, Anchal will be launching an incredible collection of one of a kind scarves, both straight and circle. The beautiful Kantha stitch holds 5 layers of saris together, creating a warm but light feel. The coolest part, is that each side is a different print, meaning each scarf is double the fun.”

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6. Inspired by the Suffragettes

“Facing imprisonment and other forms of persecution, the suffragettes rarely backed down. Even to the point of intense weakness, they led hunger strikes. During World War I they took on more traditionally male roles and proved they could pull their weight. All with the vision of casting their vote and being counted as citizens.”

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7. The Truth About “Girl-on-Girl Hate”

“I want to focus on the major internal causes for disliking other women. For every woman, this is a deeply personal question and it can take a lot of honest self-inquiry. A lot of it can be ugly. [...] The whole point of enlisting these internal causes is to stop blaming larger society and start taking personal responsibility about the way we feel towards other women. In the end, the way we feel towards other women boils down to how we feel about ourselves. Here is what we can do..”

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8. Mehndi (Henna): Origins & Myth

“I recently attended a Hindu/Catholic wedding ceremony and saw the bride with her hands and feet decorated in bright orange/ brown henna designs. These designs, called Mehndi, are not new to the western wedding scene. Many women in the US and other western countries have adopted this tradition, as a matrimonial celebratory adornment. But I was curious, where did these designs come from? What does the tradition actually mean? Mehndi is beautiful, yes, but are there deeper meanings, myths, and origins?”

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9. The Place Where Design Can Save the World: Thoughts from Women in Design

“I am reaching out to women in design and learning just what motivates them to become movers and shakers – not only in the design world, but in the world world. [...] The responses I got were incredible! Give a designer constrictions (like a two sentence limit) and she’ll blow you out of the water. “Take that!” she’ll say as she whips up something amazing out of nothing. I’m so glad to share the work of these four women with you. Here’s hoping you find inspiration in their words.”

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10. Men Fighting for Women

“…I hope to bring light to men who share our passion in fighting for the rights of women. Photojournalist Walter Astrada has spent much of his career focused on violence against women across the globe. Astrada’s photography topics range from “Sexual Violence in Eastern Congo” to “Femicide in Guatemala.” One of his most notable projects is “Undesired, ‘Missing’ women in India,” a documentary on the sex selective practices in India. [...] It’s important to remember that gender equality should not be a fight led solely by women, but by men and women alike.”

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013…
-Colleen

Gifting for Good

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There is a growing buy-to-give movement occurring both due to consumer demand and organizations desire to create positive change. People want to know where their product is made, who made it, and what it is doing for the greater good of humanity or the environment.

Now, when consumers want to make a purchase, whether it is a t-shirt, makeup, a pair of shoes, or a bottle of shampoo, they can locate a company that matches their needs while supporting a worthy cause. These products may generate this support by giving back a percentage of sales donated to a charitable cause, a tangible good given to a person in need (one for one model), or the good creates unique employment opportunities for underserved communities.

Anchal’s model falls into the last category. We provide economic & educational opportunities for women trapped in the sex trade and our artisan made products fund the project.

I believe people inherently want to make a difference in the world and conscious consumerism is one tangible way to do so.

Here are three ways you can give back this holiday season:

1. Give a handmade product. A product that is beautiful, is simply a beautiful product. But a product that is beautiful and connects you deeply enters a world of personal meaning. Our one-of-a-kind scarves & quilts make perfect gifts for everyone on your list. Not only do these products connect you to an artisan in India, they help provide a new life to the maker. Find the perfect gift here.

2. Give the gift of activism. The Anchal Advocate Packet provides all the tools you need to get involved, make a difference, and have fun doing it. The kit offers entertaining activities, posters, postcards, stickers, recipe cards, and more! Get more details here.

3. Give a Charitable Donation. For the person who has everything, consider making a charitable donation in their name. Underwrite an educational workshop or help us purchase material for our artisans. When you make a donation, we will email you a card for your loved ones. Learn more here.

Happy Holidays!
Colleen