Tag Archives: artisans

Looking into the Faces of Our Products

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I recently read a fantastic article in New York Times, Looking into the Eyes of ‘Made in China.

The article uncovers the mystery behind the anonymous people who produce our imported goods. The photographer, Lucas Schifres, created a series of typological portraits looking at the workers inside six Chinese factories, which resulted in “Faces of Made in China.”

While browsing through the portraits, I was struck by how much the images resonated with me. Their eyes tell a story of hard work. Their smiles speak to the pride in what they produce. But why was I so moved by portraits of people I had never met?

“Looking at a human face mobilizes more brain cells than looking at anything else, “ said Lucas Schifres.

This got me thinking about people’s growing desire to know where their products come from and who makes them. The days of knowing your dressmaker and milkman may be over, but it is clear that as consumers, we crave a personal connection to the people that make our goods.

I turn to the local food movement as an example, where communities are choosing to reclaim responsibility for the food they put in their bodies. After years of relying upon the convenience of the industrialized food system, people are increasingly concerned with the health risks behind what they consume and a desire to know who grew their food.

Whether you are buying a tomato or a scarf, Anchal believes that consumers should feel good about what they are buying. When you purchase an Anchal product, you not only know where it comes from, you can see the artisans name stitched on that product and you can feel good that it is assisting a woman into economic empowerment.

In the future, maybe not every single thing you purchase will have a face to it, but I do belief that socially and environmentally conscience products will soon be mainstream, to the point it becomes hard to find products that don’t give back. Or at least I can dream…

-Colleen

How to Renew Motivation

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I have to admit that sometimes it is just hard to stay inspired and motivated to launch a grassroots start up like Anchal. I can quickly forget about the women’s struggles and inequality in India when I am not there. I get caught up in the minute details of the layout for the new website, how the each scarf is falling on the mannequin, and questioning whether or not our new tags should be white or cream. In the midst of preparing for the launch of our scarf campaign and planning the Fall’s fundraising events, I find myself losing sight of the WHY. Why did I help start this project in the first place? Why have I worked for 2+ years without any compensation? Why do women in India need my help?

I am quickly reminded and energized once I look at photographs of our artisans and their children. In addition, I like to peruse quotes from the women and Jaimala. This one in particular struck a cord with me today.

“A lot of these women have now pledged to keep their daughters away from this exploitative profession. They were afraid to send them to school, fearing humiliation and isolation by other students but now they are regaining the lost courage and are sending them to school regardless of the stigma. The income they bring home has empowered them and they have begun to participate in decision-making. They can state their personal wishes more easily now and invest in things such as their health and their daughters’ educations.”

Collaboration is the key. Not only are we working together with NGOs like Anoothi to provide alternatives to commercial sex workers, we are breaking this vicious cycle by giving their children increased potential to chose a life outside of the sex trade. What more motivation do you need?

-Colleen

What does Sisterhood Mean to You?

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I’ve never had a sister. When I was younger, I adopted friends and called them sisters, as I am sure many girls in the same situation do. “Love you like a sister,” I’d say — back when that was the cool thing to say. I wore necklaces and charm bracelets with half-heart pendants, the other half exchanged with love with one of my closest “sisters.” Sometimes I even argued with my friends as if we were really sisters, bickering over chapstick flavors and whether Ricky Martin was cuter than any of the Backstreet Boys.

Although I’ve grown out of both chapstick collections and charm bracelets (but never Ricky Martin!), I am still enamored with the idea of sisterhood. In fact, just this weekend I wrote a note and signed it, “love you like a sister,” without the faintest remembrance that “LYLAS” used to be all the rage.

When I stumbled upon this anecdote by Monica Gabriel, a young woman blessed to have five blood sisters, I felt a keen awareness of the potential universality of sisterhood.

In her blog post, reflections on fighting over a solitary bathroom quickly dissipate into memories of “whispered soul-baring after the lights were out.”

Then comes a word of hope for the sister-less; a bit of encouragement for me:

“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.”

In the end, as if Ms. Gabriel were speaking to the Anchal sisterhood, she poses the very challenge that fuels this fall’s new line of scarves:

“Imagine if this sisterly love could be extended, even in its most basic form, to women we have less time to develop friendships with.”

Perhaps we don’t have the time, or the resources, to journey to India and meet our soul sisters. But, they are there. On the other side of the world our sisters are stitching scarves and quilts and pillows that will be sold here in the States just weeks from now. They are thinking of us, women they have never met, as their fingers move gracefully over the recycled sari material. They are extending their love, knowing that somewhere, across the Earth, someone will accept their offering and in some small way, adopt a sister.

Supporting the Anchal artisans is an act of love. I am so glad to be a part of this sisterhood!

Share your thoughts on what sisterhood means to you below.

-Emily