Focus on Sahara: Supporting One Another

Twenty years ago Aburgani, who had cut garments at Ghar Udyog Cooperative, sat down with 8 women to talk about their new business venture. They were forming a group to sew and embroider clothing and they were determined to succeed. They quickly agreed on one thing: none of them could do it alone, but if they worked together they could accomplish pretty much anything they put their minds to. To reflect this, they chose to name their group Sahara, meaning support. Sahara was not about charity, but about women supporting each other to achieve their goals – including supporting their families.

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Sahara has grown to 30 women artisans, with Aburgani as head and designer. It is known for its leadership and entrepreneurship. In addition to making MarketPlace products, this group produces apparel for the local markets. This resourceful spirit means that they rarely have a slack period. On the infrequent occasions when there are no orders to fill, they make things like necklaces, bags and file folders which Aburgani sells at exhibitions.

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Sahara is respected by the other groups for their hard work and their great record of delivering products on time. They achieve this in part because everyone is willing to work overtime and on holidays if necessary to get the work done. The assignments are made fairly so that everyone gets work and no one feels overburdened or neglected. They proudly suggest that they hold the record for the fewest sewing mistakes.

They clearly work hard, but they also enjoy their celebrations and socializing. The group celebrates both Hindu festivals such as Divali and Ganesh Chaturti and Muslim holy days like Eid. Each member makes a dish to contribute to a communal meal. For Ramadan, Aburgani, a Muslim, fasts for the month. The Hindu artisans also fast for a day out of respect. On New Year’s Sahara has a tradition of taking a break from the regular routine by enjoying a picnic together. Even on regular work days, everyone enjoys eating lunch together to socialize and share.

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Sahara takes the social programs and their responsibility to their community very seriously. They attend all the meetings, participating with enthusiasm. Furthermore, they keep informed on current events. Every Thursday they read the newspaper together, clipping out and posting important stories. They also have established a fund for loans. Any artisan who needs to borrow money can do so at a low rate of interest … yet another way this group embodies its name, support.

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