We thought we would tell you a bit more about who made your clothes.
The factory that has made your breton jumper is called Creative Handicrafts. It is not really a factory actually, they called themselves a cooperative.Their main goal is to empower women through their work. They have this beautiful moto “Our aim is to create millions of breadwinners, not a few millionaires”. And the most amazing is that they do just that, maybe not for a million of women yet but why not in the future !
Also it is important to note that it is not charity, the women work to earn a living. But they do that with a fair salary, decent working conditions and the assurance that their children are well taken care of thanks to the in house preschool and the higher school sponsorship program.
Care to know more about Creative Handicraft ?
A little bit of history
It all started in 1984 with a woman called Sister Isabel Martin who started to work with two women from Mumbai slum sewing soft toys. Shortly after she created the Women’s Self Employment Cooperative with another 7 women. Among which was Sidhana that we had the chance to talk to !
The cooperative was really formed in 1992. In 1996, thanks to sister Isabel Martin’s contacts the cooperative start to export in Europe becoming a real business entity.
In 1997 they open their first children care center for the children of the women working in the cooperative. In 1998, it is the education sponsorship program that opens, allowing the children of the women working in the cooperative to have free higher education.
In 1999 they are 60 women working in the cooperative. In 2000 they open Asli food, an affordable catering company enabling women who are unable to sew to still have a job in the cooperative by cooking. In 2001 they open Credit and Saving group to help the women to save money and to stay out of debt even offering loans.
In 2013 they get, their well deserved, Fairtrade accreditation. In 2014 they also become certified for organic cotton production by GOTS.
The cooperative has two units
The first one, the most important as it enables the second one to exist is their business entity. The business entity is separated in 2 as well : the fairtrade manufacturing activity and the affordable lunches catering activity.
The second branch is their social activities that are so diverse but all have in common to empower women by making them totally independant and by helping them taking care of their children.
A bit more about their social activities :
- Pre-school education for children from age 3 to 6
- A care development centre where children are provided with breakfast and lunch as well as given help with their homework
- A creche for children aged from 3 to 16. The children who go to school are helped with their studies and smaller ones are cared for. The crèche also makes it possible for mothers to breastfeed their babies or check on them when needed because it is located next to the Cooperatives where the women work.
- Education sponsorship : Creative Handicraft thanks to sponsors also help support the educational expenses of around 150 children. These children are encouraged to support another deserving child once they have become financially self-reliant.
Once a year they held a health camp where women are encouraged to get checked on various aspects of their health (from eyes to gynecological check ups, first aid courses or AIDS awareness …)
A mutual health fund where women pay a contribution every month and Creative Handicraft matches the amount. Medical expenses are reimbursed when the need arises.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL EMPOWERMENT
The women are teached how to sew when they join the cooperative. This sewing training is provided to women from the slum and tribal community who are unskilled and facing a severe financial crisis in their families. Women are selected after a survey of their socio-economic status. Keeping in mind the financial struggles they face, they are paid a stipend to help provide some relief while they learn the intricacies of sewing.
The ones that after month of training are not able to sew are hired as cooks in the catering activity. 5as one of the social worker told us when we visited all the women in India know how to cook as they are teached from a very early age)
Once trained, a woman joins the Cooperative as a member of a group. These groups produce textile based handicrafts, garments, accessories and soft toys. The Cooperative is managed by its women members.
There is also a flexible working program for women who are unable to work at the cooperative. They are paid to realise some patchwork and embroidery works from their homes.
And finally there is the Saving & Credit groups which helps women save and manage their money and take a loan in case of need. Members are encouraged to take loans for educational purposes, medical emergencies and for entrepreneurial activities. The Saving and Credit groups are managed by the social work department of Creative Handicrafts.