The Women of Anoothi
FOR WOMEN | BY WOMEN
Anoothi is a co-operative created to educate, train, and empower marginalised women, including sex workers. Led by founder Jaimala, and working alongside her NGO Vatsalya, this program was founded to train these women in tailoring, block-printing, kantha stitching and natural dyeing techniques. They teach other skills such as organic farming and self-defence. Over the last ten years more than 4500 women have benefited from this incredible initiative. Anoothi follows Fair Trade principles. We are proud of our collaboration with these inspirational women.
"Walk in the Anoothi centre any day, and you will see our artisans working under open tin sheds, covered by cool shady trees, listening to music and singing themselves sometimes. During tea breaks, the staff of the entire campus gather around the chai shop and enjoy a friendly interaction. They are respected, listened to...They are happy and comfortable at work and this shows in our beautiful products" - Jaimala Gupta, founder
Kantha quilts, typical of Bangladesh and West Bengal, carry a centuries-old tradition of recycling and creativity.
Women in rural areas recycled old saris and other textiles, layering four to seven pieces together and keeping them together with intricate rows of stitching, a skill learned from their mothers and grandmothers. The quilts they made were mainly used as bedcovers during the mild winters and breezy monsoon nights.
Women developed their own individual stitches as they sought a sense of individuality and creativity. Different generations would sometimes work on the same kantha, each person representing their hopes and dreams.
Our artisans embroider their names onto our quilts to remind us of the hand of their makers. They stitch our throws with running kantha, a straight running stitch and the original and earliest form of this craft.
Traditionally, women sit in groups while they work and are responsible for one piece. It is a skillful process which can take weeks or months to complete one quilt, depending on the design. Our women have the freedom to work on-site in the village or from their homes, allowing them to work alongside running their households.
Anoothi has created an empowered community of artisans who now have the independence and confidence to find a path that works for them and their families. The women are proud of their work, and feel safe being part of a community that looks after them and nurtures them.
“These women are born in very difficult circumstances...they are raised to bear children and to serve. It is imprinted in their minds that it is their destiny. When someone reaches out to them and talks to them about being independent, about dreaming big, their first reaction is disbelief" - Jaimala, founder"
The Anoothi village is situated in the countryside outside Jaipur, on the foothills of the Aravalli mountains. It is entirely run on renewable energy, and is a great example of sustainability in action (the women grow their own vegetables, cook with biofuels from animal and plant waste and practise water harvesting ). The artisans travel here from nearby villages and share the grounds with disadvantaged children from their seven to seven initiative, a residential care program for street children. They attend classes at the on-site school, play sports, receive medical and health care and freshly cooked meals.