Published: 05th December 2019
Weaving hopeful tales: These women from Muzaffarnagar are making sustainable home decor, thanks to SSF
Started by Gauri Agarwal, Skilled Samaritan Foundation empowers women to make products like tables and wallets and provides them with a monthly income
Since Gauri Agarwal was born in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, the city, otherwise known as the crime capital of India, has always been close to her heart. Despite being sent to boarding school and studying abroad, this investment banker-turned-entrepreneur found her way back home soon enough and with that, realised that even after all these years, the city had only grown backwards. "It was so frustrating," exclaims Gauri and adds, "From then on, I knew that the cause of women empowerment and sustainability are close to my heart." Hence, Skilled Samaritan Foundation (SSF) was started in 2012 with the aim of lighting up villages with solar power. And this year in January, they started a new mission — to make home decor products with material like industrial waste, coconut fibre, waste cloth rags and plastic.
The women of Muzaffarnagar were already skilled in the art of weaving charpoy (khatiya) which are nothing but traditional Indian beds which are hand-woven. So Gauri decided to fuse their traditional knowledge and skills and use the charpoy-weaving technique to produce contemporary products like boxes, bags, tables, wallets and more. But in a district where women themselves feel like they will not be 'allowed' to work, forget about the patriarchy and oppression that exists anyway, how did Gauri manage a breakthrough? All it took is one woman apparently. "One woman agreed to join us on the condition that she will work from home and that we will not tell anyone about it. But soon, when her family observed that she is bringing in regular and monthly income, they joined in too!," says Gauri. This way, today, 50 women work with SSF and earn Rs 3,000 to 4,000 per month. "These are all seasonal labourers or work odd jobs, so this stable amount comes as a huge relief for them," explains the founder whose own mother also plays a huge role in the start-up.
Citizens who work for SSF | (Pic: SSF)
Aligned with the UN SDGs
SSF provides women with the material and all the women have to do is weave. The designs and products are contemporary keeping in mind the market needs. Not only this, Gauri takes the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals very seriously, "Especially rule number five which talks about gender equality," she asserts. Thanks to all this, they have prestigious clients like Serendipity Arts Festival 2018, Dhabab (the popular chain of restaurants) WeWork who have already sourced products from them.
Their five-year goals are employing 50,000 women from the 500 odd villages in Muzaffarnagar district so that more and more women feel empowered and financially stable.
Products by SSF
For more on them, check out instagram.com/skilled_samaritan