Read our intriguing background introduction to our women’s group before you become acquainted with our Indian artisans and see how your purchase of fair trade bed linen makes an impact in a her life.
Our core women’s group, the faces behind the our handwork:
Nilofar - Studio Assistant & Hand Embroiderer
Nilfoa, in her early 20s, helps run the design studio with the owner, interpreting the design requests from my manufacturer or I to the women's group. She is often running up and down stairs relaying vital design details by way of physical or commentary example. Nilofa entered the textile trade under her own interest (an interesting point to make as most lives are planned my family members, especially that of the women) and she already has her ambitious 5 year plan set out. She is learning as much as possible so that she can set up her own factory in fashion textiles of handmade work that has an ethical attachment. Her family lives 350km from her place of dwelling, so currently she lives in a women's hostel. She has been away from her family for 4 years yet visits them on the many religious festivals India celebrates. Her parents, her father in particular, are very supportive of her career. Nilofa loves to practice her English with me and often forces me to learn Hindi.
Asha - Hand Embroiderer & Machine Tailor
This smiley lady is a calm balm to be around. She radiates warmth and creative enthusiasm. Asha is the lynchpin in my hand embroidery team, often training the newer ladies in various needle work skills. Asha’s skills also lend themselves to machine work, studio assistant and studio mother-hen. A loyal, dedicated and caring young lady who enjoys working and is eager to advanced her skills in administration and accountancy. She is currently saving to enter into an administration course.
Santush - Hand Embroiderer
Santush has eyes that seem to piece into your soul. Rather unnerving and she seems to be ageless. This elegant, down-to-earth and seasoned embroider is a diligent and fast worker, often found crouched over a large piece of work on the floor. Her face illustrates a haunted look, maybe one of hardship, and heavy family responsibilities, yet her independent and private spirit dictates a sense of possibility in life. Santush is often heard wanting to see me in a saree. Like many village ladies, she is not educated. She readily seeks out interaction with Westerners, and is always eager to learn more skills in handwork techniques. She brings her own wealth of village needle work skills handed down from her mother (which is a traditional way of handing down the craft).
Vandana - Hand Embroiderer
I met Vandana late in my production phase and as I was nearing departure back to Australia. A young, boisterous lady, often creating a bit of disorder, joined the team as a trainee. The other ladies patiently teach her the easier needle craft skills, with the intention to become more confident in the more detailed work.
Laxmi - Studio Godmother & Hand Embroider
My nickname for this little dynamo is ‘Studio Mother-Hen’. She has worked with my manufacturer for 6 years and was instrumental in reaching out to find local women’s groups to work on my product range. I swear she wanted to see me get fatter, often bringing me sweet cups of chai and plates of Indian delicacies. There were times when I needed raw food to munch on as I found the soft, spicey Indian curries played havoc with my mouth. So I often arrived at the studio with bags of crunchy carrots and cucumbers, intending to share them with others at the lunch time call, she often bought me these scrubbed mouth savers throughout the day, of which I was grateful for. While her main task is to see to the welfare of the senior staff in the studio and office, Laxmi is also well skilled with hand embroidery skills, handed down from her mother when she was 16 years of age. She works only on my prediction when in full swing. She also teaches other ladies in the more complicated embroidery techniques. I asked her what task she enjoys best and she said she enjoyed both tasks of being creative and being the mothering hen. Laxmi has a large family and sees her job as a valuable additional income to help support her family. She works long hours and often needs to rely on her daughters to see to the welfare of her own family back home. I take my hat off to this lady who works with loyalty in extreme conditions.
If you are unaware of the Indian work week, it is 6 days, Monday to Saturday and long hours each day, with an hour for lunch. Often dark in winter when the ladies leave their work on foot and then having to scramble their way onto crowed busses, walk long distances or hail down a passing motorbike to take them to their village.
The average wage in the textile trade in Rajasthan is AU$3/day. Organic Bed Threads are proud to impart in it’s early development phase, that we always had our target set producing to fair trade standards of providing above award wage and living wages . Our self-imposed need to make products to certified organic standards via GOTS and their fair trade criteria via ILO requires us to adhere to strict ethical and socially responsible audits in respect for people and planet.