Category Archives: Anchal Updates

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

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

Beautiful Things that Connect You Deeply

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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. Gifts often work this way. When someone you love takes the time to give you a beautiful gift, the gift’s beauty is a part of it – the other part is the person’s love for you, the intention behind the gift.

In working on Anchal’s Didi Connection Campaign, we realized the unique potential for our products to connect women to each other. Didi scarves connect us with a deeper understanding of sisterhood. Your sister is not just a the woman you happened to share a mother with, she can be anybody. She might live across seas, in another country – struggling the way many women today still do. In that way, Didi scarves aren’t just gorgeous scarves, they’re also symbols of collective meaning.

Here is a recent note I got from our Didi Heather:

“Today, I have just ordered three Didi Scarves and a baby quilt – I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to buy these beautiful things knowing that our sisters in India will be helped a little and that I will be the beneficiary of their beautiful handiwork. You are my Didi, your Mom is my Didi – we are all Didis together.”

This is a new age of conscious consumerism – let’s continue to surround ourselves with beautiful, meaningful products that connect us with something deeper and make a difference in this world.

-Maria

Anchal and Dining for Women in Philadelphia

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This past Sunday I presented Anchal’s Mission and Vision at the Elkins Park Chapter of Dining for Women. The event was held at the beautiful home of Cindy Ariel and Rob Naseef. Cindy Ariel and Sheryl Potashnik, the Co-Leaders of the Chapter were amazing hosts. After a short meeting, where I gave a brief PowerPoint presentation and showed our video, the evening turning into an cornucopia of delicious food and stimulating conversations. It was so wonderful to meet the intelligent and dynamic members of the Elkins Park Chapter and make connections with Dining For Women. Here are some photos of the event.

-Lizzy

www.diningforwomen.org