Ahmedabad, India was once famous for its textile mills, but increased global competition in the 1980s forced many of the mills to shut down and left countless women either unemployed or with unstable seasonal employment. Enter St. Mary’s Mahila Shikshan Kendra, a fair trade artisan group empowering women through fair trade by working to combat the problem of unemployment and unfair pay in Ahmedabad.
St. Mary’s is an artisan group founded by women, for women.
Artisans are given the option to work in a workshop or at home. This opportunity is vital for mothers with young children who are able to care for their families while earning a livable wage. Ten Thousand Villages has been working with St. Mary’s since 1987, providing sustainable employment for women like Santosh Lauji who has been working with there for thirty-five years. Santosh Lauji was able to send all three of her children to school while working with St. Mary’s.
One of her sons went on to study computer engineering at the university level, a feat that may not have been possible without the sustainable income Santosh was able to earn.
Artisans hand-embroider designs using the traditional Kathiwad style, incorporating tiny reflective pieces into embroidery known as “mirror-work.”
This style of embroidery is more than a thousand years old and has been a custom of the Gujarat region of Ahmedabad for centuries.
The Wonderful World Wall Hanging, crafted by women artisans working with St. Mary’s, showcases the Kathiwad style of embroidery.
All hand-embroidered pieces from St Mary’s, including the Wonderful World Wall Hanging, the Love All Around Wall Hanging and the Bluebell and Bouquet Tassel Napkins, are made of hand-loomed cotton with thread sourced locally in order to support neighboring workshops.
Buying fair trade products often means even more than helping someone earn a fair wage. St. Mary’s provides training for artisans and runs a dispensary and maternity clinic as well as a savings program and an education program for children. When you purchase one of these beautiful textiles, you are empowering the enterprising and highly-skilled women artisans of St. Mary’s Mahila Shikshan Kendra.