I knew Nazia before she knew me. I knew that she had an arranged marriage and became pregnant at age 16. I knew that her husband abandoned her and their son when she was only 18 years old and she often feared that she wouldn't be able to provide for her family. I knew that this fear grew over the years as her mother's health declined.
Colleen and Maggie told me Nazia's story as an example of the adversity that Anchal artisans face on a daily basis - hardships that neither you nor I can truly fathom.In a trip to Ajmer, India, in 2013 the Anchal team asked several artisans what differences Anchal has allowed them to make in their lives. When Nazia was asked this question, she responded simply that with Anchal she is now able to buy fruit for her son. Prior to Anchal, fruit was an unaffordable luxury. Through streams of tears Nazia explained that she would carefully navigate around the fruit aisle at the local market so that her son wouldn’t be tempted by what she couldn’t give him. Hearing Nazia’s tale was a raw, honest, and above all, humbling moment.
Since 2013, Nazia has worked incredibly hard, consistently creating beautiful, marketable pieces. Colleen recognized Nazia's natural talent and keen eye for design right away. She was promoted to project assistant and is a role model to the other artisans.I met Nazia in March of 2015. I was nervous, but mostly excited to get to know her. I prepared interview questions for our social impact reports and wanted to hear about her new job as project assistant. Nazia requested that Colleen sit in on the interview and they held hands as Nazia opened up to me. Since her last interview, she has been able to afford medicine for her mother, education and a private tutor for her now 8-year-old son. She often sits in on the lessons so that she can help him with his homework if he has questions later. She assured me, "He will have all of the opportunities that I didn't."On International Women's Day I got to meet Nazia’s son- a happy, energetic eight-year-old who was flying from the swing set. She warned him to be careful and not to swing too high. He rolled his eyes at her before running off with his friends. After all, she is a mother - inherently worried about his wellbeing. But now she worries about him being overly ambitious on the playground rather than him going to bed hungry. She smiled, pride beaming through the mist in her eyes. She no longer lives with the fear that she won't be able to support her family. She did it.
Nazia confirmed what we’ve suspected at Anchal Project for a long time: Empowerment begins with mom.