The first priority in MarketPlace’s development program is to ensure that the women are employed and able to provide their family with the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. Improving their quality of life does not stop there, however. In the program the artisans named “Darpan,” meaning mirror, the women are given a forum for reflection and discussion. They can explore questions about their lives, their beliefs, and express opinions freely. Two leaders from each cooperative make up a management team that decides which topics to cover. Leadership rotates every 2 years, giving more women the chance to take the lead.
“As a Darpan Leader, I attend the monthly meetings where all of us discuss and plan for the month. Currently, we are focusing on our health and participating in yoga classes. We work to coordinate with the yoga teachers and let everyone know about the schedule. We also have organized other activities such as nutrition classes.” Sampatha, SMM Cooperative
At MarketPlace, leadership is a quality that is highly valued. Community involvement is important. The two come together in the Social Action program. Through this initiative, the artisans work on identifying problems in the community and finding solutions. Previous programs have included informing their neighbors about health concerns, petitioning for better sanitation services, and putting on street plays about domestic violence. Two representatives from each cooperative lead the process of deciding on a topic, identifying resources, and forming a plan of action.
“Our Social Action program is now working on improving the common toilets in our area. We conducted a survey of all parts of the neighborhood, collecting data which we have taken to the municipality. We also have organized the families in the area to demand clean and adequate toilet facilities. This is a serious problem which people do not want to deal with, but it needs to be addressed. And improved.” Vasanti, Nirman Collective
The Armaan Club was inspired by the artisans’ determination to help their children learn and succeed. Club programs provide academic support, extracurricular enrichment and recreation for the daughters and sons of the artisans. Leaders from the cooperatives help to ensure that the programs are relevant and that the children take advantage of them.
“My job as a leader Is to make sure that the parents are involved in all the activities and coordinating them means a lot of phone calls, accompanying the kids to events, maintaining discipline but also allowing the children to have fun. For me personally, it has improved my relationship with my son and I have learned to understand him rather than just being strict.” Reshma, WARE Collective
Reading the Newspaper
Recently the artisans came up with a new activity which has proved to be a great success. Meeting in groups in their cooperative they read and discuss newspaper articles, which is educational, entertaining, and a chance to share.
“This is an activity we all love. Twice a month we buy 4-5 newspapers and distribute the sections to everyone in the cooperative. Articles are suggested and as a group, we choose one, read it in detail and then discuss it. We not only learn something but we also read some funny articles and have good discussions and laugh. It is interesting to hear other women’s reactions to the articles and I have learned that there is not just one way to think of things. And we learn about each other too. The leaders are responsible for bringing in the newspapers, keeping attendance and keeping a record of the articles along with a short description of the discussions.” Reshmi, Nirmaan Collective