Duplication and Dialog

October 5th

9:00 TO 5:00        DESIGN WORKSHOP
11:00 TO 2:00     GU ARTISANS TO VISIT SHARE, WARE AND SAHARA
1:00 TO 2:00        LUNCH WITH PS
2:00 TO 3:00        GU ARTSANS INTERACT WITH EMBROIDERY WORKSHOP ARTISANS
3:00 TO 4:00        MEETING WITH GU
4:00 TO 5:00        MEETING WITH GLOBAL DIALOGUE

Well, I am actually now sitting in the London airport.  The last two days were so busy I did not get a chance to write.  The flight from Mumbai to London departed Mumbai on time at 2.30 am, and it was quite empty so I had a chance to spread out and lie down on 3 seats and sleep.  So I feel quite rested.  The London airport was a mess; the escalators were not working so immigration and security got totally backed up.  Oh, well!  It never happens that everything goes smoothly on a trip.

The last couple of days of the workshop were devoted to completing products and, more importantly duplicating them.  When the first sample is approved at the workshop, it is signed by either Lalita or me and is then handed over for duplication.  When it comes back, it is checked by Hasina and then again checked by Shaily who signs the sample that will remain in Mumbai and will be used as reference for  production .  The other sample is packed and sent to Chicago.

Ziabhai, who started Ghar Udyog in the Santa Cruz area, moved to Uttan (about 2 hours out of Mumbai) and his former group merged with Nirman.  Ziabhai  has restarted Ghar Udyog in Uttan with 15 women artisans, about 6 months ago. They all came to visit SHARE, the other groups in the area and MarketPlace-Mumbai.  It rained most of the day and trains, buses and every mode of transportation was delayed.  In the morning we did give them a choice of postponing the meeting but everyone wanted to come.

The last meeting of the day was with the Global Dialog leaders.  This was the meeting where they would choose the theme for the next 6 months and highlights of their discussions, discoveries, opinions would be featured in the catalog.  It is very challenging to come up with a theme that will excite all the artisans and, through the process, help them to learn something.  These meetings remind me of when I wanted to communicate with my teenage kids: when I asked them what should we talk about, there was completely no response.  So this time, Noreen and I decided to give the women paper and pencil and ask them to put down 3 things that had worried them in the last month.  For those who could not write, we had a one-on- one discussion with them.  It worked!  There was definitely a common thread:  many of the women said that inflation was their biggest problem.  It is ironic that the Government of India officially records 0% inflation.  I was shocked when I heard about the cost of essentials. Rice is over a dollar a kilo (a 30% increase from last year), dal ( lentils), a main source of protein , is over 2 dollars a kilo (more than double from last year).  Chicken is about 1.50 a kilo and the price increases on the week-end when many families eat chicken as a treat on Sunday.

So, we talked about inflation and they wanted to learn about costs of food in different parts of the city. For example, is it more expensive in wealthier areas? They also talked about large stores (Cosco type) that have very deep discounts, but the problem is transportation to get to them.  The idea of possibly coordinating and purchasing collectively was put forward.  Another idea that came up was to start a small cooperative.  The next step is for the leaders to go to their groups and discuss this suggestion and come back with ideas and construct a plan.  It’s so exciting to see the ideas develop, and  the women were really engaged in the discussion.  For me, this  is an indication that we are listening to the needs of the women and helping them to design programs that are important for their lives and  are not just in compliance with some development theory.

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