The ETHIKET MAGAZINE team had the chance to Interview Madhu Vaishnav. Founder of Saheli women, a non-profit fashion social enterprise creating ethically made garments in the rural region of Rajasthan India.
Saheli Women started in 2015. It was launched by the social initative IPHD,
The Institute for Philanthropy and Humanitarian Development (IPHD), also created by Madhu Vaishnav.
THE STORY BEHIND SAHELI WOMEN
Madhu Vaishnav is of Indian origins. She studied at Berkley in California. She had a passion for community development as it is what she studied .
She started the organisation with a small budget of 10 000 rupees being the equivalent of 100$
The idea was not to come from America to India with an elitist mindset but rather to build from grassroots and from bottom to up. In order to do so Mahdu had to go through various challenges,
such as going in the village of her in laws in order to mobilize women.Women in India need to ask for permission to leave their villages, to start business projects or to attend university studies.
The permission needs to be granted by the family of their husbands. Madhu therefore needed a lot of time to mobilize women that she would eventually work with. She had to explain to the women the project in itself.
While it remained hard for them to even understand the concept without knowing how to read and write.
The challenge also lied in asking them what they needed instead of coming from a saviors
perspective and imposing solutions that might not be beneficial or necessary to their evolution.
The women in question do not usually work or go from one village to the other, and when they do they need to be granted permission . Madhu finally ended up being able to mobilize 5 women and take them with her.
Saheli Women means female friends. After 2 months of practice they started focusing on embroidery and as they became very skilled it became their principal practice. Those 5 women today turned into 28 women.The purpose was to enhance women empowerment as well as their financial emancipation.
As Madhu stated“ If a women is empowered , her family is empowered, if her family is empowered, her village is empowered, if the village is empowered, the country is empowered”
. The idea is to end early marriages and to educate the women by also giving them
literacy courses as well as technical courses.
In order for them to be skilled and educated and therefore be able to become emancipated and become the head of their households.
Saheli Women all the more has a health clinic opening between once a month.
This clinic is ruled by doctors who are experts in women’s health issue and can therefore tackle exactly the needs of the artisans.
Madhu is eventually planning on opening a girls center that will also serve as a school.
This incredible woman is the creator of both Saheli Women and IPHD and is looking forwards to separating IPHD and Saheli Women.
Mahdu also pointed out the importance of research and staying as away as possible from superficial interest in the organization.
She met a lot of people with the desire to start an ethical brand but with little knowledge of the work behind ethical practices, or ethical practices in themselves. Therefore Madhu offers month long internships and newly opened a program called
” Travelling with purpose” a week longprogram in the village.
Those programs aren’t free, but the fees are used to empower the
working conditions and the fair wages of women and to fund the continuation of the organization, as well as the health center.
The 28 women now all became head of their households; they are payed way above India’s minimum wage.
They today make more than their husbands.
Madhu all the more explained how meditative it was for her to watch women in the confection process.
''At the beginning they had to learn everything but now they are able to do it all by themselves and it is very inspirational to see.
It was hard and challenging but I managed to get some help on the marketing level from Berlin.''
Madhu now wants people to know more about materials, not by simply mentioning that they want an item to be hand loomed for example, but for them to know what it takes to create hand loomed garments.''Saheli Women is really about the story of each women working there, they all have very different stories.
Yet it remains so inspiring to witness their upbringing and how they have evolved.
‘' At the end of the day whether it is in developing country of in the west , Women are important.
If they aren’t treated as such, the generations to come and the country itself ,will have a hard time. ''
Saheli Women is about being organic and family oriented. They are all very close to one another.
It is natural , simple and minimal and Mahdu really wants to stick to those values.