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Social Impact Through the Artisan’s Lens

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Social Impact Through the Artisan’s Lens

Impact reporting is so vital to our program because it allows us to see how our efforts are changing the lives of the women we work with, and their families. It also allows us to learn what we can do to improve or change programming to cater to the needs of our artisans. After all, they are the reason we do the work that we do.

During our recent trip to India, we sat down to interview two of our Project Assistants, Shama and Shamina. These two women, side by side, are a great representation of each artisan’s unique journey through our program. 

Meet the Artisan: Shama

Shama has been with Anchal since 2014. When you walk into the workshop she is often the first smile you see, her laugh is contagious, one that you wish you could bottle up so you can hear it all the time. She has become a natural leader with the team, and is brilliant when it comes to figuring out the intricacies of creating a product. Her confidence is apparent not only in her work, but in the way she carries herself and interacts with her team. 

 When Shama first joined our program, she was very timid. Due to health reasons, her husband was not able to maintain a regular job, creating financial uncertainty for her and her family. With an internal drive to take the situation into her own hands, she asked her husband to stop working, focus on his health, and became the primary breadwinner of her family -- something not heard of in her village.

Over time Shama progressed from being in charge of cleaning the fabric, to being able to read all of the complicated guidelines, measuring and cutting patterns, to managing the creation of every product. Her confidence has fueled her growth both inside and outside of the office as she challenges societal gender norms on a daily basis.

In Shama’s village, women are usually in charge of all domestic duties - from cooking to laundry and everything in between. With limited running water or electricity, most chores take longer - washing clothes by hand and building a fire to cook each meal for the family. Everyone is taken care of, but with little time left for self care, being a homemaker can weigh on the woman’s mental health. With Shama’s husband not working, he took on the role of caring for the household. While very reluctant at first, he slowly adapted with her help. He now cooks, cleans, and even prepares tea for Shama when she gets home in the evening. 

Shama and her husband are flipping the gender roles of her village on their head, pushing for equality in the home. By taking her situation into her own hands, without caring for social norms, she created a social impact within her local community, paving the way for other women and families. We are honored to be part of her journey. 

Meet the Artisan: Shamina

Shamina started with Anchal at the end of 2016 and is still early in her journey with the organization. When asked how old she was, Shamina bowed her head and said that she didn’t know. Her mother never got her an ID card when she was young, so she has no idea when her birthday is - she guesses either 29 or 30. She never went to school or was given the opportunity to learn how to read or write. She dreams to one day do both.

Shamina is quite timid and struggles with self confidence. As a Project Assistant, a role held by only 7 artisans in our program, she is clearly brilliant, hard working, and accomplished. However, she struggles to see it herself. With little emotional support from her family, she is always seeking to please others, including her mother-in-law who has always been disapproving. When asked what skills she wants to learn through the program, Shamina responded simply with “anything that will make my mother-in-law appreciate me.” The sadness in her tone is evident. 

Shamina is hardworking and a critical part of the Anchal team. Despite being not knowing how to read or write, she cuts and measures fabrics for each product with precision. She is quiet, but you will she a big smile on her face when she interacts with the other artisans, or when you catch her eye as she looks up from the cutting table. This community of supportive women that surrounds her each day will help her realize her value and in this she will see what she is capable of becoming.

Through it all, there are glimpses of a fiery spirit in Shamina. Apart from leaving the house for work each day, Shamina finds freedom and joy in driving. When she first started with Anchal she didn’t know how she would make it to work and back home by herself. She was afraid because leaving the house alone was something she had never done. However, after her first solo trip on the highway, she began to slowly trust herself, realizing she was capable of something on her own. At the end of the day in the office, we watch her hop on her scooter, her darling son hitching a ride on the back, both smiling as they ride away.

Anchal’s Commitment to Social Impact

Both Shama and Shamina are making a huge difference as members of the Anchal team. Their hard work and commitment helps us deliver the beautiful quality products you see on our website. While both women are at a different point in their journey with us, they both show us the importance of having a community of women who support you and work with you through the ups and downs of life’s realities.

At Anchal Project, we promise to support our artisans throughout their journey with us. We believe in helping each woman build the skills needed to excel in their role and rebuild their confidence through a community of supportive women. There is a lot of work yet to be done, but we see the impact of our work when we see each woman making her own social impact within her home and village. 

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