Stories of Change

Laxmi - bringing social change
Sudha, Luxmi and her grandson

Laxmi - bringing social change

Laxmi was a woman who had woven all of her life but had never seen the money from any of the work she had done. The money from her work had always gone to the male in her life: her father or her husband. When Laxmi had children she put away her loom, but as her children grew she realised how badly she wanted to send them to school. Her husband's work did not give them even enough for living, let alone for school.

When Laxmi heard of the Association for Craft Producers (ACP) and the work that they were doing to help women earn income through their skills, she approached them and asked if they would help her to put her loom back together, help her to market her weaving, and help her earn money she could use to send her children to school. ACP agreed, and Laxmi became a part of the ACP team doing traditional cloth weaving and teaching other women to weave.

Meera Bhattarai, the founder and General Manager of ACP, recalls that when Laxmi received her first pay for her work, and she received the money in her hand, she cried. Meera asked her why she was crying and she explained because she had never before had power in her life and now she did. ACP helped Laxmi save the money she earned, and she used it to send her three children to good schools. Laxmi herself had never had the opportunity to be educated but she understood its value, particularly for girls. As a result, she sent her girl child as well as her boys to the same quality of school. Eventually, all of her children, with her money and encouragement, earned college level degrees.

When Laxmi first went to ACP and started to earn her own money, other women in her village became interested in what she was doing and wanted to be involved. With ACP's help, Laxmi eventually organized sixty other women in her village to begin weaving, earning income and saving it on their own. Laxmi's work has brought economic viability and a huge change to the status of women in her village.

Women have more say in their families’ decision making, and have been able to influence the education and health of their children, particularly their girl children. One interesting and telling feature is that their weaving group now also employs men of the village, one of which is Laxmi's husband. Since Laxmi is the group leader, her husband now works under her leadership. This would have been unheard of in years passed, but is welcome now because the men have been able to see the great economic benefits the women's work has brought to their village.

This is true social change and social justice at work, and it has come through the women's courage and willingness to take the lead and through partnerships with fair trade groups and importers giving them access to the opportunity.

Laxmi's daughter, Sudha, who was educated with the money her mother had earned and saved, ended up not only learning the traditional weaving skills of her mother, but also getting a Masters Degree in Social Work. After graduation, Sudha worked for the Nepali government in a programme for the blind. After several years of this work she realised that the most important social work she had ever seen was the work that her mother had done with the women weavers in her village to help raise their status through income generation. Sudha decided that this was the work that she really wanted to do, so she returned to her village and has now taken over working with the weavers’ group to help market their products through ACP, and provide for more training and help for the women.

Read more about ACP - Association for Craft Producers »

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