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(Shraddha Gupta, 15, years old, daughter of artisan Malati Gupta, WARE. )
I just gave my 10th grade exams and am on vacation for the next 4 months till we start junior college (11th grade). I am going to study Commerce for 2 years before I start college. I have a pretty clear plan for what I will do in the next few years. I want to study Business Management in college with a few internships thrown in.
I think the real world experience will serve me well when I look for a job. I want to intern with a big name like Procter & Gamble because there are so many people who are unemployed, and I want to give employers a reason to hire me. Eventually I want to start my own business in something that has a lot of scope in the market.
I think the only challenge for the next few months will be to overcome the boredom of the long summer days. It’s usually too hot to go outside and play so we spend our days indoors. At night we play football in the field next to the house with other kids from the Armaan Club and some of the neighbors’ kids.
Recently some boy passed an annoying comment when he saw me playing football. He told me that I was a grown up girl and shouldn’t be playing with kids all day. I asked him if there was a book in which there were rules for what girls can or cannot do. A lot of people have an opinion on things I do, but my parents are very open-minded and I just ignore the rest.
The Armaan Club also has some exciting things planned for us this summer. There are a lot of courses on offer for us to pick from- crafts, beautician etc. I have chosen a 4 month long beautician course and I’m looking forward to the experience.
I really really wanted to learn how to play guitar this summer, but learning any musical instrument is very expensive. A few kids I know want to learn the guitar as well, and we’re still looking for a cheaper option.
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2013 has been a very eventful year for all of us at MarketPlace. Here are some of our most memorable events:
1. MarketPlace in Mumbai inaugurated a training cell as many women are approaching us for jobs. Although a number of community development organizations in the slums conduct sewing classes for women, they are not teaching the women how to sew efficiently and earn a good living. In contrast, this training cell is giving them the skills to become self-sufficient. 8 women were trained in 2013 and are now working with different cooperatives.
2. In September we held a two day meeting bringing together the fabric suppliers and the artisan groups. Normally the groups that make the fabric come to Mumbai twice a year to discuss design, colors, production and delivery. Fabric supply is always a challenge. At this meeting, we had the opportunity to hold brainstorming sessions to discuss various problems and work out solutions for them.
3. Our Armaan Club kids reached the semi-finals of a city-wide soccer tournament! The Armaan Club, consisting of daughters and sons of the artisans, played games every Saturday under a program conducted by Magic Bus, a non-profit organization working with children to inculcate values, discipline and confidence.
4. The young girls and boys of the Armaan Club started Karate Classes every Saturday morning. Because there is so much violence in the city, particularly against women, we felt that this was an important lesson.
5. The Armaan Club kids went on a one-day picnic to an amusement park and had the time of their lives!! They do not normally have the opportunity to visit such places and it was so wonderful to see them take advantage of almost every ride.
6. The Pushpanjali Collective decided to celebrate Navratri, a nine-day Hindu holiday, together. The women artisans see their cooperative as their family and have many group events such as going for picnics, celebrating festivals, etc. For their Navratri celebration, the Pushpanjali artisans decided to chose a color for each day. Green was the color of the day here.
7. Artisans’ Day is so popular it is now celebrated twice a year! Preparations go on for weeks and the entire event is organized by the women themselves. On the big day(s), each group enacts a skit, sings a song or does a dance.
8. In March, 2013, Indira Johnson, a renowned artist from Chicago, worked with the women on a project entitled “I can’t; Yes, I can!” She and the women explored and discussed things that women in India have been told from childhood that they cannot do and then talked about things they were doing despite tradition. After the discussion they made flags representing overcoming these obstacles and marched through the streets.
9. The artisans took part in a city-wide social action protesting the corrupt ration system. Rationing was established in Mumbai in 1968 with the purpose of providing essential commodities to needy residents at reduced rates. Unfortunately, the system has become very corrupt and the Ration Shop owners are instead selling the wheat to profit-making companies like liquor breweries, an act which is not only selfish but illegal.
10. The MarketPlace and SHARE staff and managers of the cooperatives were treated to a one-day picnic at a water park. Water parks have become big recreation destinations in Mumbai but are a bit expensive. The package included breakfast, lunch and snacks all day.It was such a great bonding experience and everyone stayed until the very last minute – until the park closed down!
11. Kirit Dave visited the United States. Kirit is a well known designer who has worked with MarketPlace since the beginning. He visited the New York NOW trade show, SERRV International, and also met with customers and the member of theMarketPlace Board.
12. Kala Darji, the Merchandizing Manager in Mumbai, came to Boston to visit her brother and his new baby. We took this opportunity to invite her to Chicago. Unfortunately it was November and when all of us were saying the weather was so nice at 45 degrees, she was freezing to death!
13. In May, Pushpika Freitas represented MarketPlace at The World Fair Trade Conference in Brazil. This is a bi-annual event and an opportunity for producer groups and marketing organization to discuss the challenges of Fair Trade and express visions for the future.
“When MarketPlace Handwork of India contacted me, I was so horned to lend my voice to such an amazing organization. All they asked was that I wear one of their pieces and share their mission. Something so simple, but the possibility of helping women who have devoted their lives to helping other women and disabled people felt so big.”- And I Get Dressed
This Fall, MarketPlace reached out to fashion bloggers around the country to style our clothing in different and creative ways. These bloggers featured below were excited to support our mission of fair trade and social empowerment, and each found a uniquely beautiful way to wear our clothing. Check out their blogs to learn more about their experience styling a MarketPlace jacket or top!
We want to thank all bloggers for your support in this collaboration, and for showing off our clothing in artistic and innovative ways!
“So Marketplace does good things, and creates very cool clothing. My cotton jacket is light and floaty, beautifully printed on both sides, and so versatile. I’ve worn it with dresses, as here, and with my distressed (= holey) jeans. Marketplace offers gorgeous dresses, skirts, and my favorites – long tunics that are awesome over jeans or leggings.” – Not Dead Yet Style
Here are the links to all the blogs:
Late Blooming Sparkle:http://latebloomingsparkle.blogspot.in/2013/11/share-power.html
Fashion For Giants: http://fashionforgiants.blogspot.in/2013/11/marketplace-handwork-of-india.html
Secrets of a Stylist: http://www.secretsofastylist.com/2013/11/how-to-style-ethnic-print-items.html
And I Get Dressed: http://www.andigetdressed.com/2013/11/marketplace-handwork-of-india.html
Joyatri’s Adventures in Vintage: http://joyatri.squarespace.com/joyatri-home-page/2013/11/17/everyone-jump-upon-the-peace-train.html
Indian families take their home cooked meals very seriously and the dabbawallah system is a great example of this. The “dabba” is a 3-tiered lunch box made of steel. Every day lunch is prepared fresh and packed into this dabba so that office-going members of the family can enjoy a home cooked meal at work. The dabba is a symbol of fresh, healthy food, uncontaminated by outsiders who might use the same vessels to cook beef etc.
Every day a group of men go around the city collecting these dabbas from homes and deliver them to offices. A few hours later they collect these empty dabbas and return them to the houses. These men are the “dabbawallahs” of Mumbai. The “delivery boys” travel to every corner of Mumbai by local trains, bicycles and on foot. According to an article published in Forbes magazine in 1998, one mistake for every eight million deliveries constitutes Six Sigma quality standards. Each lunch box is sorted and differentiated on the basis of markings on the lid. This marking gives the dabbawallahs an indication of the source as well as the destination.
The dabbawallahs have a fan club that includes Richard Branson and Prince Charles and they have the distinction of having made numerous speeches at colleges about management. These businessmen are not your usual corporate types dressed in swanky suits, but their business has been a case study for some of the best B-schools of the world.
The dabbas that arrive in offices often have a lot of food in them- not enough for one person to finish them. This “leftover” food was seen an opportunity by a local NGO to feed kids. The initiative makes an attempt to leverage the expertise of the dabbawallas to feed the thousands of hungry street children in India. Through the ‘Share My Dabba’ initiative, the Dabbawala Foundation and volunteers will distribute food to thousands of hungry children on the city streets. All people need to do is put a ‘SHARE’ sticker on their dabba.
“On their way back after collecting the tiffins, the dabbawalas will separate the boxes with stickers,” said Abhishek Dinkar Ekal, vice president of the Dabbawala Foundation.
This is different from leftover food- it is a conscious decision to share your lunch with someone who needs it. The volunteers will also ensure that the nutritional value and freshness of the food will remain intact till it reaches the kids.
Here’s a lovely video explaining the initiative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZC1czZofyY
Today there are 5,000 dabbawallas in India. They deliver lunch to 200,000 people every day, i.e. 400,000 transactions every day. At an average of Rs 200 per lunch box per month, they have a turnover of 500 million rupees per year!
Seventeen years ago I was watching the 4th July parade near my home in Evanston, Ill when I saw a woman marching in the parade wearing a MarketPlace skirt. I was so excited and felt so proud! But then I started thinking about how I personally had not cut it, or sewn it, or embroidered it. I wished that the women who did all that could have had the chance to see customers wearing what they had created.
That was when we thought of the Global Dialog program. In this program the artisans could ask the customers questions which were printed in the catalog, and the customers could answer. Since this was the era before widespread internet and email, the customers’ letters were mostly handwritten and sent by regular mail. We got tons of responses, some of them many pages long and some enclosing photographs.
Over the years the Global Dialog program changed into something more introspective. The women chose themes that they wanted to explore, and each of these topics became a motif in a MarketPlace catalog. Some of the themes the women discussed were Transitions, Celebrating our differences, Daring to be Different, Beauty: Who Decides? These were all powerful topics but the communication with the customers took a back seat.
In reviewing this program recently, the artisans expressed two wishes: One, they wanted to change the name to reflect the changes in the program; and two, they wanted to know more about the customers.
For two months they tossed around names, eventually narrowing them to 10 possibilities. Then they and the staff in Mumbai and Chicago voted. And so the name was chosen: Darpan. Darpan is “reflection” and the women chose it because it reflects their progress, thinking and hard work and it implies reflection on the past and possibilities of the future for both the artisans and the customers.
And now we want to rekindle the conversation between the artisans and you, the customers. The artisans want to hear from you, see you wearing the products they make, and know more about your lives. Send us your comments, photographs or even a video. Since this is a two-way communication, the artisans will send you a hand-drawn Thank You card from the children of Armaan Club as well as a note. From an individual artisan, mailed from India!
This is going to be a lot of organizing by the artisans but they are looking forward to getting to know you. Please spend a couple minutes to write them a message and send a photograph! Photographs transcend language and are worth more than a thousand words. Be a part of this really empowering program.
Pushpika Freitas, President