What's the project about?
Kerala Crafts works to provide an alternative to a life of poverty by supporting several women's co-operatives in southern India. One of our projects is Malabar Memsahib Welfare.
In 2011, a group of marginalised women were facing an uncertain future, with serious illness affecting their husbands' ability to work - and a small co-operative was set up by Kerala Crafts. When not selling and stitching clothes locally, fair trade knickers are made for Kerala Crafts UK. All profits from sales go back to India, to help fund various community projects, including an orphanage for girls.
The sales of fair trade knickers has far exceeded our dreams, and the sewing machines used at present, are not sufficient to be able to cope with the demands of using different fabrics, as well as the sheer quantity of knickers being made.
What's the solution?
An industrial sewing machine is the perfect solution.
Malabar Memsahib is a very inclusive place to work and each lady working there contributes her particular skill towards the final product, and as such each person is valued. The sustainable work has empowered the ladies, enabled them to develop their own creativity - be in full control, whilst Kerala Crafts opens up markets for their work in the UK. The success of their business, must also, in part, be due to the fact that it is run entirely by women for women, a rare situation in India.
This will be a good investment and will enable the project to move forward, keeping up with the demand for the product in the UK. We supply knickers to many fair trade shops as well as selling via our website www.keralacrafts.co.uk
Kerala Crafts was established in 2001, and works with 5 projects in southern India:
Vimala Welfare Centre - purchasing sustainable banana fibre products, mainly baskets, made by women who would otherwise be unemployed and living below the poverty line.
Fair Cotton Co-operative Alliance - purchasing cotton handloom products made by marginalised women also.
Malabar Memsahib Welfare - The co-op/shop is based in Ponnani, which is not in a tourist area of Kerala, and there is very little work there, other than agriculture and fishing. There has been a good 'marriage' between traditional Indian craftsmanship using styles that are marketable in the UK.
'....this is like an assured source of income for us. Even sometimes the local stitchings become really low we can still do the knicker order and make up the money to run our family'. Jalaja (pictured).
Valsalya Bhavan - a home for rescued girls aged between 5 and 15.
Adelaide Bhavan - a home for rescued girls aged 15 and upwards.
We are committed to fair trade - our ethical focus. We work to alleviate poverty by creating and developing a sustainable business, to provide opportunities for artisans who are economically disadvantaged in the conventional trading system. The women are paid a price that reflects the true cost of production, no matter how low the market goes. They can translate their skill into a realistic wage and so improve their standard of living. There is no distinction made of caste, age or religion in the workplaces.
The first range of knickers were made of plain cotton, and the traditional treadle sewing machines the ladies were using were sufficient for this. However, as new fabrics are introduced, eg. stretch jersey cotton, the existing machines do not have the correct stitching facility (eg zig zag) to cope with the materials.
The ethos of our projects fits well within the framework of Kudumbashree (Kerala's own poverty eradication programme for women) which was 15 years old last year. To celebrate this milestone, we designed our own limited edition of knickers in the Kudumbashree logo colours - purple and green. The 3 purple petals symbolise economic, social and women's empowerment (emancipation) and the green stems, prosperity.
We feel buoyant about the future - as sales of our fair trade knickers are consistently high and this has been a huge encouragement for the Malabar ladies, who now have improved lives and assured wages, and most importantly, HOPE for the future.
We need Crowdfunder help to raise money to buy the much-needed sewing machine - THANK YOU for catching the vision of what our project is trying to achieve in India.
All our lovely rewards are made with love in Kerala, by the ladies who will be using the sewing machine.
Patrons: Dame Diana Rigg, Felicity Kendal, Rachael Stirling
Pioneering in social development and commitment to liberating women through trade
UK Registered Charity No. 1138414