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Surviving Does Not Equal Living

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As we wrote about a few weeks ago, interviewing the artisans was an extremely emotional, challenging process. In an effort to create a comfortable environment and very optimistically, a naturally flowing conversation, I started off with what I thought were the easy questions. I asked things like, "What is your favorite color?" "What kind of music do you listen to?" and "What's your favorite TV show?"

I realized slowly that there weren't going to be any easy questions. The majority of the women don't have a favorite color, don't listen to music and don't watch TV. When I asked them what they did outside of work, most of them answered with blank stares and shrugged shoulders. One artisan explained "I don't have time for anything outside of work."

I followed up: "You leave the office around 5:00pm - what do you do when you go home?" She walked me through her average day. She wakes up at 5:00am. She cooks meals for the whole family- sometimes this means upward of 10 people- and then wakes everyone up to eat. She clears their plates & does the dishes and then gets her children ready for school. Once the children are showered, ready & safely at school she returns home to clean the rest of the house. She sweeps the floor, dusts the furniture & scrubs the counter tops. She walks 45 minutes to the Anchal office where she works from 10:00 - 5:00. She walks 45 minutes home, prepares dinner, does the dishes and put the kids to bed. When they are asleep she decides if she is going to make their breakfast the night before or in the morning, and then she cleans the kitchen before bed. She gets an average of 5 hours of sleep per night.

I asked a few of the other artisans to walk me through an average day. This routine became eerily familiar. There were minor deviations such as grocery shopping, yard work or helping with the family store. Some women spend time in the beginning of the week preparing the budget and dividing the food per day & per child. But every single second is occupied.

Some women acknowledged that even if they had the time for something fun, they didn't have the money. See, time is as luxurious as a television or radio. Every time I heard this the void in my heart grew larger and larger. It struck me all at once - these women are not living, they are surviving. And these are two distinctly different things.

There is some good news - many of the women say that work is the best part of their day. They look forward to coming into the office & spending time together. It is an opportunity for them to laugh, share stories and connect with one another. It's an opportunity to forget the troubles at home, reflect and enjoy personal space.  It's an opportunity to earn an income and make positive changes in their lives.

It is at work where they can live. And it is our hope - and intention -  that this will trickle down into every aspect of their lives & allow them to live fully, completely & joyously.  Help a woman live today by sponsoring an artisan, or shopping their one-of-a-kind pieces. Because simply surviving is not enough.

-Tess

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