Happy International Women's Day from India! Every year we mark this exciting holiday with a big celebration with all of our artisans, however, this year was even more special because we were able to be here with them for the party!
The theme of this year's event is #PressForProgress. International Women's Day was started to achieve women's equality, and while we have not reached this yet, we will continue to celebrate the determination, bravery and success of our artisans each year
The set-up started early with food being prepared and a tent being set up. Anchal's artisans had to travel by bus the 3 hours from Ajmer to join for the celebration at Vatsalya. We were so anxious and excited for them to arrive as we hadn't seen them for over a year since our last visit.
The ladies arrived around 12:30 and immediately spotted Colleen waiting inside the gate. They lined up and one by one greeted her with smiles, hugs and laughter. She is a celebrity in their eyes, and they are celebrities in ours.
After refreshing with a bit of chai tea, the group of nearly 300 women moved inside the tent for a fashion show. Artisans transformed textiles they had made into creative outfits to model for everyone. It was so fun to watch the pride on their faces as they strutted down the runway wearing the beautiful pieces they handmade themselves. The large group watching the show were completely mesmerized, many taking out their own phones to record.
A really special moment happened when several of Anchal's artisans walked up to the stage to present Colleen with a gift. The women had made a scarf for Colleen, each of the artisans stitching their names in english into the fabric, with the simple words "thank you". The emotions in the room at this moment were overwhelming as Colleen graciously accepted this gift, with tears in her eyes.
The women broke off into different groups for a educational workshop. They were given different topics related back to women's issues and instructed to discuss their opinions as a group. They shared their thoughts and views with each other on girl's education, women's equality, divorce and many other time relevant issues.
After breaking for a delicious lunch, it was time for the dance party! The DJ was not shy about turning up the music and playing all the favorite songs. Colleen, Natalie and Tommy joined the women on the dance floor to move and laugh together. The women loved having Colleen out their with them, circling her as they danced and laughed together.
It felt like the day had just begun when it was already time for Anchal's artisans to get back on the bus to head home to Ajmer. Each woman was presented with their gift, a new stainless steal water canister. Most families don't have running water in their homes, so they will walk to a source and carry the water home in these canisters for their families to use. We gathered as a group for one last photo to end the wonderful day - the artisans playfully fought over who would get to sit next to Colleen for the photo. We hugged and said "see you soon" as we will be heading to Ajmer to see them again in a few short days.
This amazing day was made possible by all the generous donors of our Road to India campaign. Your dollars paid for the chai, snacks, tent, DJ and gifts for every artisan. But most importantly, you provided a day of celebration for women who don't have any other day that is just about them. You gave them joy today and for that we are so very grateful.
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