As Tess & I walked through the narrow alleys, unsure of where to turn, we were comforted by the circle of strong women that surrounded us. The swarm of 30 artisans covered in colorful saris glided gently and powerfully to Laxmi’s home, singing songs of celebration along the way. Neighbors looked upon us curiously from rooftops and doorways. Confident women traveling together in a large group is by no means a normal sight in this community.
I never understood what true empowerment felt like until this moment. Despite the immense hardship each artisan has faced, they have fought for change. Change in their lives and change in their children’s lives; undeniable during our visits to the artisans’ homes.
When I spotted Laxmi’s smile flash as she anxiously stood in her doorway awaiting our arrival, I knew we were about to witness something special. She was glowing with pride. She welcomed us inside with chai and explained while we were munching on biscuits that after 11 years of renting her home, she was now a proud homeowner! She then told me, “I wait all year for you to come.” I nearly lost it.
Fighting back my tears, I reflected on Laxmi’s transformation as I took in every detail inside her home. The sewing machine, tiny crochet decorations and a single bed for a family of 5, the humble space could not have looked more beautiful. Like many artisans, Laxmi was extremely reserved upon joining. You could sense the extreme adversities and pain she must have endured. However, three years later I saw a different person in front of me – a strong, empowered leader who fought the oppression with design.
Laxmi is just one story; this was repeated over 20 more times. Tears, laughter, chai, biscuits, family photos, hugs, smiles, and acknowledgement of gratitude – all fueling our joint efforts to continue our work together. Just as we walked joyfully and confidently through the streets, showing the neighborhood what women’s empowerment looks like, we must walk together to show the world the importance of Anchal and the importance of all women around the world.
In gratitude to all supporters,