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Stitching Success - Rang De’s role in crafting sustainable livelihoods

A few months ago, Rang De Social Investors backed 18 stay-at-home mothers in a quaint hamlet in Ooty, enabling them to become first generation artisans. Each woman had a loan requirement of ₹25,000 which was used to procure advanced tailoring machines. The repayments have been steady over the past few months and it was time to uncover the impact Rang De social investors had made.

Women tailors in Nilgiris

I had the opportunity to visit this community of artisans and understand the impact on ground. I was really excited to see what difference ₹25,000 could possibly make in the lives of these women.

I visited the Good Gifts office on a chilly morning, and I was welcomed by the founders - Suhas and Sunita who gave me a brief introduction to their vision for the community.

In 2018, Sunita and Suhas moved to the picturesque Nilgiris, in Tamil Nadu. Away from the hustle of city life and the corporate world, they quickly noticed the challenges faced by the local and indigenous communities, particularly in securing stable livelihoods. 

This observation led them to establish the Indian Yards Foundation, marking the beginning of a social enterprise dedicated to enhancing the socio-economic status of these communities through the promotion of crafts and commerce.

The Indian Yards Foundation aims to empower women from these communities by turning them into first-generation artisans, offering them a platform to showcase their talents, skill based training and earn a livelihood. For the initiative to achieve long-term sustainability, it's crucial for these artisans to have access to a stable market that can provide consistent orders and valuable market insights. This means developing products that are not only profitable but also meet the needs of the market. 

Essentially, there's a need for a platform that can effectively connect these artisans with customers who appreciate and value their work, ensuring that the majority of the profits return to the artisans themselves. 

This need led to the creation of The Good Gift, a resource designed to bridge the gap between the artisans and their potential market, fostering a cycle of sustainable product development and economic empowerment.

The Good Gift office was more like a resource centre where 8-10 women diligently worked on tailored machines. 

What are they making? Thoughtfully designed handmade dolls crafted using upcycled material.I was introduced to Bhanu, the supervisor who made sure the production line was efficient and she walked me through the doll making process.

Bhanu (to the right) The doll making process was unique. It begins with sketching the outline of the doll in a piece of cloth.

The body, limbs and face are cut out as per design. The next step is to stitch the pieces together. There were pedal machines and few advanced jack f5 machines. The women were paid for the pieces they stitched. Each stitched piece earned them ₹10 rupees.

It costs ₹25,000 to buy a power machine. Rang De Social Investors provided loans at 6% interest rate so that these women could increase their production and create a livelihood for themselves.(The blue and white machines are power machines backed by Rang De loans)

The peddle machines were slow, manual and cumbersome. It took approximately 10 minutes to stitch one piece. The power machines did the same in just 7 minutes, hence saving time.

After stitching the pieces, the body parts of the doll are filled with yarn. Then additional details like eyes, hair and final touches are made to the doll.

Once the doll is made the dresses which are made separately and stitched according to measurements and requirements are assembled. For the dresses they use fabric that is up-cycled from pre-consumer textile waste. It is sourced locally from within the region, ensuring a lower carbon footprint.

The dolls signify earthly skin tones, traditional attires like dhoti, saree and body positivity. Finally the packaging is done. Each Good doll comes eco packaged either in an aesthetically designed gift box or a cotton pouch along with a maker card introducing you to the artisan who made the product along with her story.

Rang De Social Investors have enabled stay-at-home mothers to take up additional work at home during their free time. I spoke to 5 women Investees briefly - Shanthi, Mary, Ramya, Baby and Rema. Each of them had a unique story.With a low-interest loan from Rang De, they were able to purchase a tailoring machine for themselves which assured them a steady income source for years to come. 

These women largely worked 6-8 hours every day while managing their household work and earned ₹10,000 monthly.

They are quite happy as they are able to contribute to their family's income. They work from 9-3 PM at respective centres and take up the materials to their home and stitch at convenience. 

It was really amazing to see the hard work of these stay at home mothers in creating a better future for their family. As the dolls find their way into homes around the world, they carry with them stories of resilience, empowerment, and hope. The Good Gift serves as a bridge, not just between artisans and consumers, but also as a connection between traditional craftsmanship and contemporary values.

This story is a reminder that meaningful change begins with small steps, a shared vision, and the collective will to make a difference.

A big thanks to 96 Rang De Social Investors who invested  ₹4,00,000 in affordable loans to give this community a leap towards sustainable income. While the first set of loans were crucial for 16 women Investees there are more women who are willing to follow the proven path. 

It's a call to action for all of us to support initiatives that empower individuals and communities, fostering a cycle of growth, empowerment, and sustainable development.

You can invest in creating sustainable livelihoods in remote villages.

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1 Comment

Could you suggest to the organization that the dolls could represent different religions?

This would enhance awareness of children that there are many different type of people in society.

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