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Hand-Stitching Hope in the Slums of Calcutta

14th March, 2013 - Posted by Alannah Tomich - 2 Comments

Fair Trade Asha ScarvesHope is made-by-hand in Calcutta, India where the two hundred women of Asha Imports transform vintage cotton saris into one-of-a-kind  scarves and blankets.  “Asha” means “hope” in Hindi.

The Global Exchange Stores are thrilled to partner with Asha Imports to bring you this beautiful line, of which each piece holds the  hope (or “asha”) that we can make change in faraway economies and lives.

Working at the Fair Trade Store in Berkeley, I get to see beautiful crafts arriving a few times a week. My favorite part of my job is learning about the wonderful projects and producer groups we work with. Here’s what I learned this week:

How to Hand-Stitch Hope?

  • Asha’s 100% cotton scarves and blankets are made in Calcutta, India at a center where young women from the local slums are provided training in sewing and business skills.  This steady employment provides income and positive alternatives for the deeply impoverished community.
  • The one-of-a-kind scrap fabrics from vintage saris are sourced in the local marketplace, paired, and hand-stiched in the distinctive Kantha style which runs the full length of the fabric.

A Word from the Experts:

According to Asha Imports:  “In Southeast Asia, there are many people who are suffering through poverty-stricken lives. Many times, poverty and cultural demands force people to live in slums. It is estimated that 30% of people in Calcutta are living in the slums. Many people cannot find jobs because of the numerous cultural and economic hindrances. People that reside in the slums may have skills, but they are unable to market their abilities. [Our organizations teach] tailoring skills as well as various other skills that can be used to support their families.”

photo credit: Asha Imports

Where is Calcutta, anyway?

Although I’ve lived and traveled abroad, there is always more to learn when it comes to building a global awareness.

Calcutta was once the capital of India under British colonial rule, until political unrest caused it to be moved to New Delhi. Calcutta was a center of education and culture and the independence movement that led to India’s freedom from Britain in 1947.

The city sits near the border with Bangladesh and the Indian Ocean, and is now the state capital of West Bengal. Today, it is the third largest metropolitan area in India boasting a population of more than 14 million people, including the two hundred women who are employed by Asha Imports.

Upcycled Fair Trade Sari BlanketsCome See for Yourself:

Stop by a Global Exchange Store today to check out the bright spring colors and soft texture of these one-of-a-kind scarves and blankets.

 

 

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