The villages of Haryana are powered by their women; from managing a busy household to working in the fields and everything in between. We employed a team of local women at our farm to help us in the kitchens and on the fields and soon they we realised that they were a treasure chest of traditional knowledge – delicious cooking, eco-sustainable house maintenance (composting, using cow-dung for fuel, non-chemical pest control) as well as incredible experience in farming and harvesting. We were extremely grateful for their presence amongst us, and could only balance the scales by contributing back to them, and so the beginnings of Women’s cooperative were seeded.
Our first step was towards literacy and thus we started education for those willing and motivated, with the help of incredibly talented volunteers we slowly scaled up this program and reached out to as many women as we could.
With basic lessons in hindi, english and preliminary maths; we wanted to set up these women with the necessary skills to manage finances, read & sign contracts and be able to educate themselves about their basic rights and the local laws & legislatures so they can navigate through the community without apprehension and doubt.
We then worked towards economic independence for these women by creating a platform for them to sharpen their commercially viable skills and turning it towards production of sellable merchandise. The local women are master seamstresses through years of practice and have a really good depth of experience. They also demonstrated a very unique style and aesthetic, something that we believed could easily become an attractive market offering. Our goal was simple – to provide these women with a means of economic independence so they could regain their confidence and stature in society.
After a series of fundraisers, we managed to procure our first batch of sewing machines and we distributed them within a test group, these women could work from home, in their own time. Any profit made from the sale of the Laksh textile products is then re-invested in the co-operative and used to pay the women, to replenish supplies of fabric, threads, beads and ribbons to make the products and to pay for the repairs of the women’s sewing machines.
As good fortune would have it we were grateful to connect with two extremely talented fashion designers/couturiers – Jane (USA) and Beenu (Delhi) who agreed to mentor these women towards producing products that would make an impact in the market. These women set up a system of weekly meetings where goals would be discussed and setup output standards that helped us put our products in international markets.
The mentors work in two ways – they teach the women ways of harnessing their technique as best as they can and also become their bridge to the outside world by procuring orders and providing an opportunity to access non-traditional markets. They are now working towards helping us set up an online presence to further expand the opportunities.
Thanks to the efforts of our mentors, there has been a remarkable transformation in the craft that these women now produce. The quality of detailing meets international standards and the aesthetic is chic balanced with traditional, with style and grace.
The co-operative is run in as sustainable way as possible, every scrap of fabric is reused: to make patches for the patch-work bedcovers, turned into charming fabric flowers used for hair slides, earrings and buttons, turned is resilient and vibrant rope or patches that once stitched together become effervescent gypsy skirts and salwars.
Today our products are exhibited in artisan markets across India and sold in New York. We have setup a small shop on the farmhouse itself where products can be showcased and sold exclusively to our select clients before they hit the market.
Our vision is to empower as many women as we can in the coming years, and make this into a sustainable movement which persists by self-collaboration between the women.
Today the Laksh Womens Co-Operative is a forty-strong group of women that work with and produce innovative textiles using traditional techniques and patterns. Some of the women are assigned work based on their strengths as seamstresses or their abilities to identify colour and texture matches, however even if a woman comes to the co-operative with little experience in needle work, work will always be found for her.
We believe in equal opportunity for all, and thus moving forward we will never refuse a woman who wants to work for her economic independence. Thus, we will continuously work towards seeking financial and pedagogical support to make this movement bigger and more effective in the years to come.
If you would like to buy our products or support us in any other way, please email Mrs. Ila Lumba at firstname.lastname@example.org.